When Therapy Meets Novel: Motherhood, by Sheila Heti

Warning: if you are not into novels as therapy, this is not the book for you. If authorial gimmicks are not your thing, this is not the book for you.

Motherhood is 300 pages of highly performative therapy as a writer agonizes over whether or not to have children. Is this writer a stand-in for Sheila Heti herself? I confess I don’t care enough to look into the matter. Certainly, Heti has an avant-garde approach to novel-writing. How Should a Person Be?, which I have not read, was largely taken from recorded conversations with Heti’s friends. The writer in Motherhood constantly uses an I Ching method of asking three coins yes or no questions and then getting an answer by flipping them. In Heti’s introduction, she informs us that the answers the coins give were the results of real coin tosses.

If your eyes are already rolling (mine were), stay away from this book. The questions the author asks the coins only make matters worse–revealing both a masturbatory need for self-reflection and a simultaneous need to hide actual accountability or introspection behind what is literally just a coin toss. Imagine allowing a Magic 8-Ball control your life.

Perhaps I’m the Scully to Heti’s Mulder, but this does not work for me. At all. Both the gimmick of forming most of a novel around a series of yes or no questions and the highly suspect thinking that goes into the questions in the first place (not to mention how it interprets the answers).

I hated how Allison Bechdel used Are You My Mother? as a form of far-too-analyzed therapy, but I hated this even more.

Grade: D-

PS As part of my mission statement, it behooves me to inform you that I received a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Motherhood Sheila Heti


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