The Mothers

by

Brit Bennett

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Luke Sheppard Character Analysis

The pastor’s son. Luke starts dating Nadia after flirting with her at Fat Charlie’s, but he urges her to keep their relationship a secret because he’s twenty-one, and she’s only seventeen. Luke has already been to college, though his academic career came to an abrupt end when he was severely injured in a football accident during his sophomore year, causing him to lose his athletic scholarship. Luke still walks with a limp from his injury, which attracts Nadia to him, since Nadia yearns to externalize her own pain but can’t seem to do so. A man who takes pride in his own athletic prowess, Luke is frustrated by his body’s various physical failures. Nonetheless, he impregnates Nadia, and though he doesn’t object when she tells him she wants an abortion, he later claims that he never wanted to “kill” their baby. This marks him as rather insensitive and selfish, since saying this to Nadia clearly shames her for having sought out the procedure, putting the blame completely on her. While Nadia is at college in Michigan, Luke begins playing football again but soon reinjures his leg. This time, though, his teammates purposely break Luke’s leg because of his inappropriate relationship with Cherry, his teammate’s wife. In rehab, Luke learns to let go of his identity as a “big man,” instead reconciling himself to the idea that he need only be a “good man.” During this time, Luke starts dating Aubrey, who visits him in rehab on behalf of Upper Room. Although he soon marries Aubrey, Luke avoids telling her about his past relationship with Nadia. Throughout the novel, Luke thinks more and more about the child he and Nadia would have had together, which causes him significant grief. Luke eventually has an affair with Nadia, which he also conceals from his wife, although she soon figures out the truth on her own.

Luke Sheppard Quotes in The Mothers

The The Mothers quotes below are all either spoken by Luke Sheppard or refer to Luke Sheppard. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of The Mothers published in 2016.
Chapter One  Quotes

Her mother had died a month ago and she was drawn to anyone who wore their pain outwardly, the way she couldn’t. She hadn’t even cried at the funeral. At the repast, a parade of guests had told her how well she’d done and her father placed an arm around her shoulder. He’d hunched over the pew during the service, his shoulders quietly shaking, manly crying but crying still, and for the first time, she’d wondered if she might be stronger than him.

An inside hurt was supposed to stay inside. How strange it must be to hurt in an outside way you couldn’t hide.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Luke Sheppard, Robert Turner
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

But they had used condoms, at least most times, and Nadia felt stupid for how comfortable she had felt with their mostly safe sex. She was supposed to be the smart one. She was supposed to understand that it only took one mistake and her future could be ripped away from her. She had known pregnant girls. She had seen them waddling around school in tight tank tops and sweatshirts that hugged their bellies. She never saw the boys who had gotten them that way—their names were enshrouded in mystery, as wispy as rumor itself—but she could never unsee the girls, big and blooming in front of her.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Luke Sheppard
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Seven Quotes

He wasn’t a big man anymore. He wouldn’t be famous, like he’d dreamed as a kid, teaching himself to sign his name in all curved letters so he would be prepared to autograph a football. He would live a small life, and instead of depressing him, the thought became comforting. For the first time, he no longer felt trapped. Instead, he felt safe.

Related Characters: Luke Sheppard
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Nine Quotes

She had hoped for a release. She would go to this wedding and when she watched the two of them kiss at the altar, the part of her that was still hooked into Luke would finally give. A click, then the latch would open and she would finally be free. Instead, she felt him burrowing deeper into her. She felt the dull burn of an old hunger, all the times she had wanted him, the times she had hoped he might hold her hand in public, the nights she had dreamed about when he might finally tell her he loved her.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Luke Sheppard, Aubrey Evans
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Eleven Quotes

He silently dressed but paused halfway, his pants hanging at his ankles. He looked like he might cry, and she turned away. He didn’t love her. He felt guilty. He’d abandoned her once and now he was latching onto her, not out of affection but out of shame. She refused to let him bury his guilt in her. She would not be a burying place for any man again.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Luke Sheppard
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Twelve Quotes

“Well, you got your husband to protect you.”

“My husband’s the one who hurts me,” she said. “He thinks I don’t know he’s in love with someone else.”

She had never said it out loud before. There was something freeing in admitting that you had been loved less. She might have gone her whole life not knowing, thinking that she was enjoying a feast when she had actually been picking at another’s crumbs.

Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Fourteen Quotes

“You did this thing?” he said. “You did this thing behind my back?”

He’d refused to name her sin, which shamed her even more. So she’d told him the truth. How she’d secretly dated Luke, and discovered that she was pregnant, and how the Sheppards had given her the money for the abortion. Her father had listened silently, head bowed, wringing his hands, and when she finished, he sat there a moment longer before standing up and walking out of her room. He was in shock, and she didn’t understand why. Didn’t he know by now that you could never truly know another person? Hadn’t her mother taught them both that?

Related Symbols: The Golden Baby Feet
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Mothers LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Mothers PDF

Luke Sheppard Character Timeline in The Mothers

The timeline below shows where the character Luke Sheppard appears in The Mothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One 
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...sure: Nadia Turner spends “her senior year of high school rolling around in bed with Luke Sheppard,” and when the springtime rolls around, she’s pregnant with his baby. (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
...several dollars and tells her to go to Fat Charlie’s seafood restaurant, where she encounters Luke Sheppard, the son of Upper Room’s pastor. Luke waits tables at Fat Charlie’s now, though... (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
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In keeping with her attraction to Luke’s outward display of pain, Nadia thinks that “an inside hurt [is] supposed to stay inside.”... (full context)
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Despite their age difference, Nadia and Luke get along quite well, and Nadia begins paying him frequent visits at Fat Charlie’s. As... (full context)
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One night that winter, Nadia’s father goes out of town, so she invites Luke to her house. She wants to offer him a drink, since this is what “women... (full context)
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Nadia and Luke keep seeing each other privately throughout the rest of the winter and into the spring,... (full context)
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Despite what the nurse at the pregnancy center might think, Nadia and Luke did use condoms, “at least most times”—a caveat that Nadia now feels embarrassed about. “She... (full context)
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...that the procedure will only take ten minutes. Afterward, she waits in the lobby for Luke, but he never arrives. An hour later, as Nadia starts to dial Luke for the... (full context)
Chapter Two
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Nadia drives Robert’s truck to Fat Charlie’s in search of Luke, who’s nowhere to be seen. Acting on a hunch, she goes to a beach house... (full context)
Chapter Three
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...Stuffing envelopes, she imagines sitting across the Mrs. Sheppard and looking at the pictures of Luke in her office. With this thought, she tries to refocus on the task at hand,... (full context)
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...let alone the girl her son got pregnant. Indeed, Mrs. Sheppard knows that Nadia carried Luke’s child; Luke himself told his parents as much in a moment of panic and fear.... (full context)
Chapter Five
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Since Nadia’s abortion, Luke has been distracted at work, frequently breaking plates, bowls, and glasses. Though he used to... (full context)
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As CJ talks about how “lucky” Luke is because Nadia got an abortion, Luke can’t bring himself to feel glad about the... (full context)
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...remembers that she considered illegal abortion pills herself. She would’ve used them, she thinks, if Luke hadn’t given her money for the actual procedure. Lying in the darkness later on, after... (full context)
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...time having sex but stops short, since she’s never told her friend about her relationship Luke. (full context)
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One morning, Mrs. Sheppard knocks on Luke’s bedroom door and tells him she knows he’s been spending his time thinking about Nadia,... (full context)
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“Six hundred, right?” Nadia says, pressing Luke. “I’d hate for you to feel like you ever did me any favors.” In response,... (full context)
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After her conversation with Luke, Nadia imagines what it would be like if she hadn’t gotten an abortion. She envisions... (full context)
Chapter Six
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In the years following Nadia’s departure, Luke yearns to play football again. When he’s not working at Fat Charlie’s, he goes to... (full context)
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After working out together one day, CJ tells Luke that he’s heard Nadia is “living in Russia and fucking with some African nigga.” Luke... (full context)
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Luke joins the Cobras and discovers that he actually enjoys getting hit because it’s an outlet... (full context)
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Luke slowly gets to know Cherry and makes excuses to drop by Finch’s house to see... (full context)
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The following evening, Luke is taking out the trash in the back alley of Fat Charlie’s and thinking about... (full context)
Chapter Seven
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In the months following his beating, Luke lives in a rehabilitation center and slowly learns to walk again. His physical therapist is... (full context)
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Aubrey surprises Luke by visiting him at the rehab center on behalf of the Mothers, who have asked... (full context)
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Aubrey’s visits to the rehab center become quite frequent, and she brings Luke donuts, books, and a tank-top for him to wear during physical therapy. One day, he... (full context)
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After helping motivate Bill to do his exercises one day, Luke realizes he’s interested in becoming a physical therapist. To help him save money for a... (full context)
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Later that night, Luke lies in bed with Aubrey, whom—Bennett reveals—he has started dating. Their relationship has progressed naturally,... (full context)
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Changing the subject, Luke asks Aubrey to tell him a secret, and she says that when she was younger,... (full context)
Chapter Eight
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...she’s summoned back by a phone call from Aubrey, who reveals she’s getting married to Luke. When Nadia hangs up, Shadi doesn’t understand why she’s so upset and asks why she... (full context)
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...Shadi. On her way back, she wanders down the hall into what used to be Luke’s room, venturing in and remembering what it was like to sneak into his bed when... (full context)
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“I used to steal shit from the church,” Luke announces. “When I was little.” Nadia doesn’t believe him, so to prove it, he reaches... (full context)
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“What happened with you and Luke?” Aubrey asks Nadia. “I know you guys were involved.” Shifting on her towel, Nadia tells... (full context)
Chapter Nine
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Nadia cries three times at Aubrey and Luke’s wedding: when Aubrey walks down the aisle, when Luke delivers his vows, and during the... (full context)
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Luke and Nadia finish the liquor, and Luke puts the flask in his pocket. Making their... (full context)
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...Nadia standing in the lobby outside the wedding reception. Alone, Nadia processes the fact that Luke told his parents about her abortion. Later that night, Luke goes to unzip Aubrey’s dress,... (full context)
Chapter Ten
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...his ribs, and puncturing his lung. Nadia hasn’t been to her hometown since Aubrey and Luke’s wedding several years ago, but she jumps out of Zach’s bed and asks him to... (full context)
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...attempt to avoid having to come back to California and see Aubrey’s new life with Luke), Aubrey keeps making excuses, as if she’s become “that type of wife” who  can’t “go... (full context)
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...get some rest, the doorbell rings. Hauling herself up and opening the door, she finds Luke on the front steps with a container of food in one hand and a cane... (full context)
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“I don’t need your food,” Nadia tells Luke. When he looks confused, she reveals that she knows he told his parents about her... (full context)
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...fact that Russell is lonely. She can sympathize with this loneliness because she feels it too—Luke has recently been promoted at his rehab job and has also started spending his time... (full context)
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...Nadia has been awake for twenty-four hours when she hears the doorbell ring and sees Luke standing in the doorframe. Luke sees how weak Nadia looks, so he takes her to... (full context)
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The next day, Luke and Nadia kiss in the bathroom when he comes over to deliver Robert’s medicine. Luke... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
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Nadia and Luke start spending almost everyday together in her father’s house. They usually have sex, but sometimes... (full context)
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As Nadia and Luke’s secret romance unfolds, Aubrey goes to the appointment she made with her doctor to talk... (full context)
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Nadia and Luke continue having sex behind Aubrey’s back. They both pretend to not feel guilty, but it’s... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
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...believe abortion “follows” a person around, Aubrey is certain that her friend is the woman Luke told her about, the one he got pregnant and who got an abortion. “Later,” Bennett... (full context)
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Luke asks Nadia if he can take her on a date. “You can’t,” she says, annoyed... (full context)
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Luke leaves Nadia’s house, accidentally forgetting his watch on her nightstand. The next morning, she brings... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
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Nobody makes anything of the fact that Nadia had Luke’s watch, but the Mothers now understand that the object was a telltale sign of their... (full context)
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...that the pastor asks her to chaperone the children’s Halloween party, where she runs into Luke in a dark corner. Leaning close, he tells her that he’s been talking to somebody... (full context)
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...even come if he wants,” he adds, and Aubrey says she’ll mention the idea to Luke. Despite this, though, she remains quiet in the car on the ride home, even evading... (full context)
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...around Russell, who asks how her fertility appointment went. “Fine,” she says, thinking about how Luke doesn’t seem to care that she’s pregnant (which, it’s worth noting, nobody knows yet except... (full context)
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Russell asks if Luke wants a boy or a girl, and Aubrey says she doesn’t know. “People always think... (full context)
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...unnoticed in the community, and people from Upper Room start gossiping, telling one another that Luke Sheppard’s wife was spotted sharing lemon meringue pie with another man. It’s not long before... (full context)
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Aubrey accuses Luke of loving Nadia. “Please,” he says, but she tells him he can stop lying, saying... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
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Aubrey moves out and refuses to talk to Luke or Nadia. During this time, Nadia stays in California, continuing take care of her father... (full context)
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Aubrey has been living at her sister’s house and refusing visitors. However, she’s spoken to Luke on the phone, giving him updates on her pregnancy. One day, Aubrey goes back to... (full context)
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Luke visits Nadia’s house one day while her father is out walking. Luke tells her that... (full context)
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After Luke says he wants to “know” his daughter, Nadia realizes that “she could do this for... (full context)
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Once Nadia tells Luke that she won’t lie for him, he quickly leaves. On his way out, he passes... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
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...though nobody leaves prayer cards anymore. Still, they pray for people like Aubrey Evans and Luke Sheppard, whom they’ve seen together with their newborn child, “together, but not quite so, the... (full context)