The Mothers

by

Brit Bennett

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Nadia Turner Character Analysis

When The Mothers begins, Nadia is a seventeen-year-old black girl whose mother, Elise Turner, has just committed suicide. As such, Nadia finds herself motherless in her last year of high school. Although she’s a top student with disarming intelligence, she begins skipping school after her mother’s death, riding buses all over her hometown of Oceanside, California. Her father, Robert Turner, fails to pay attention to her, instead devoting himself to the Upper Room church community by attending every service and using his pickup truck to run errands for the congregation. As such, Nadia has no adult support in her life, which is why she starts misbehaving by partying, hooking up with older boys, and cutting class. While playing hooky one day, she goes to Fat Charlie’s seafood restaurant and talks to the twenty-one-year-old waiter, Luke Sheppard, who is also the pastor’s son. Since Nadia is used to bottling up her pain and grief, she is fascinated by and attracted to the way Luke wears his pain on the outside, as evidenced by his leg injury from his short-lived football career. Eventually, the two grow closer, and Nadia gets pregnant with Luke’s baby. Nadia quickly gets an abortion, which drives her and Luke apart and becomes an enduring source of grief for the both of them. Throughout the rest of the novel, Nadia struggles to keep the secret of her abortion from her father and even from her best friend and primary confidante, Aubrey Evans. Even though Luke eventually marries Aubrey, he and Nadia rekindle their sexual relationship. Although Nadia internalizes her guilt over her past and present relationship with Luke, her secrets about her affair and abortion are gradually exposed and spread through the Upper Room community, eventually laying waste to the majority of her relationships.

Nadia Turner Quotes in The Mothers

The The Mothers quotes below are all either spoken by Nadia Turner or refer to Nadia Turner. 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

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season. But we didn’t. We shared this sour secret, a secret that began the spring Nadia Turner got knocked up by the pastor’s son and went to the abortion clinic downtown to take care of it.

Related Characters: The Mothers (speaker), Nadia Turner
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

She was startled by how rarely she had been alone back then. Her days felt like being handed from person to person like a baton, her calculus teacher passing her to her Spanish teacher to her chemistry teacher to her friends and back home to her parents. Then one day, her mother’s hand was gone and she’d fallen, clattering to the floor.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Elise Turner
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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 Two Quotes

Her mother had been able to tell when she’d had a bad day at school moments after she climbed into the car. What happened? Her mother used to ask, even before Nadia had said hello. Her father had never been that perceptive, but a pregnancy wasn’t a bad day at school—he would notice that she was panicking, he would have to. She was grateful so far that he hadn’t, but it scared her, how you could return home in a different body, how something big could be happening inside you and no one even knew it.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Robert Turner, Elise Turner
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

He stepped toward her and the sudden movement made her drop everything in her hands, her purse and shoes and keys clattering to the driveway. She jutted her arms out before he could come closer. He stopped, his jaw clenched, and she couldn’t tell whether he wanted to slap her or hug her. Both hurt, his anger and his love, as they stood together in the dark driveway, his heart beating against her hands.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Robert Turner
Related Symbols: Robert’s Truck
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Three Quotes

If you don’t become them, even for a second, a prayer is nothing but words. […] That’s why it didn’t take us long to figure out what had happened to Robert Turner’s truck. Ordinarily waxed and gleaming, the truck hobbled into the Upper Room parking lot on Sunday with a dented front bumper and cracked headlight. In the lobby, we heard young folks joking about how drunk Nadia Turner had been at some beach party. Then we became young again, or that is to say, we became her. Dancing all night with a bottle of vodka in hand, staggering out the door. A careless drive home weaving between lanes. The crunch of metal. How, when Robert smelled the liquor, he must have hit her or maybe hugged her. How she was probably deserving of both.

Related Characters: The Mothers (speaker), Nadia Turner, Robert Turner
Related Symbols: Robert’s Truck
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

At her mother’s funeral, in the front pew, she’d felt pity radiating toward her, along with a quiet anger that everyone was too polite to express, though she’d felt its heat tickling the back of her neck. “Who is in a position to condemn? Only God,” the pastor had said, opening his eulogy. But the fact that he’d led with that scripture only meant that the congregation had already condemned her mother, or worse, that he felt her mother had done something deserving of condemnation. […]

How dare anyone at the church judge her mother? No one knew why she’d wanted to die. The worst part was that Upper Room’s judgment had made Nadia start to judge her mother too.

Page Number: 54
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 Ten Quotes

Her father slept in his easy chair in the living room now—lying down was too painful—so she rubbed his shoulders each morning, working out the kink in his neck. She helped him to the bathroom, only as far as the door. He still had too much pride to allow her to help him bathe, although she was increasingly aware that that day was nearing, if not during this injury, then someday in the future, the way all people grew old and infantile.

Related Characters: Nadia Turner, Robert Turner
Page Number: 201
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

Nadia Turner Character Timeline in The Mothers

The timeline below shows where the character Nadia Turner appears in The Mothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One 
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...don’t do this, instead sharing “this sour secret, a secret that [begins] in the spring Nadia Turner [gets] knocked up by the pastor’s son and [goes] to the abortion clinic downtown... (full context)
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The Mothers admit that all of the stories they’ve heard about Nadia might not be true, but they know one thing for sure: Nadia Turner spends “her... (full context)
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Shortly after Elise Turner killed herself, Nadia started skipping school and riding busses through San Diego, getting off wherever they took her.... (full context)
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Now, after her mother’s suicide, Nadia hates being around people at school—her teachers are too forgiving and tentative around her, and... (full context)
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One day, Nadia skips school and goes to the Hanky Panky, a local strip club. Even though she... (full context)
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Sitting in a lowly lit corner with a drink she bought with her fake ID, Nadia watches the dancers onstage, whose bodies are “stretched and pitted from age.” Visiting the Hanky... (full context)
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The stripper gives Nadia several dollars and tells her to go to Fat Charlie’s seafood restaurant, where she encounters... (full context)
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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.” In fact, she didn’t even... (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... (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... (full context)
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Nadia and Luke keep seeing each other privately throughout the rest of the winter and into... (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... (full context)
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Nadia takes the bus to the abortion clinic on the morning of her appointment and sits... (full context)
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Nadia tells the technician in the sonogram room that she doesn’t want to see the screen.... (full context)
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After the sonogram, Nadia goes to the operating room, where the dreadlocked nurse tells her that the procedure will... (full context)
Chapter Two
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Ten years ago, the Mothers write, Upper Room protested the very same abortion clinic that Nadia has now visited as a patient. Although the church isn’t the kind of religious organization... (full context)
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After Nadia’s abortion (and finally getting a ride home from a volunteer at the clinic), Robert comes... (full context)
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Nadia drives Robert’s truck to Fat Charlie’s in search of Luke, who’s nowhere to be seen.... (full context)
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...got you the money. What else do you want from me?” As Luke walks away, Nadia feels stupid for not realizing that Luke saw her as “a problem” to “deal with”... (full context)
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...the balcony, Cody Richardson points out a nuclear power plant on the horizon, saying to Nadia, “Any minute—boom. Just like that. I mean, all it takes is a storm and we... (full context)
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Nadia imagines the moments leading up to her mother’s suicide, watching in her mind’s eye as... (full context)
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Coming into the driveway with her father’s truck after Cody Richardson’s party, Nadia turns too sharply and hits a tree. Now, as she and Robert stand together in... (full context)
Chapter Three
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...try to “slip inside” someone else’s body, inhabiting their pain. In this way, they “become” Nadia Turner after they hear about her drunken escapades. As they pray for her, they also... (full context)
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In the days after crashing Robert’s truck, Nadia stays home. Upset that she’s ruined the “one thing” her father loves, she’s further unsettled... (full context)
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The Sunday after the crash, Pastor Sheppard visits the Turner household. When Nadia opens the door, she’s surprised to see him dressed in casual clothes, though she hides... (full context)
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Closing the backdoor, Nadia rushes upstairs and crouches by a window that opens onto the yard, where her father... (full context)
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After Pastor Sheppard leaves, Nadia goes downstairs with a pair of clippers and offers to give her father a haircut—something... (full context)
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Nadia doesn’t understand why the first lady would hire her, since she’s certain Mrs. Sheppard hates... (full context)
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As Nadia fetches Mrs. Sheppard a cup of coffee, she looks out the window and sees a... (full context)
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As the weeks progress, Nadia works for Mrs. Sheppard, who gives her insignificant tasks and often critiques her work. Because... (full context)
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One day, Nadia encounters Aubrey in the halls of Upper Room. The two girls have an awkward, stilted... (full context)
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That night, Nadia opens the drawer of her nightstand and takes out a small golden medallion in the... (full context)
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Bennett briefly shifts her attention to focus on Latrice Sheppard, who—just as Nadia suspects—never wanted to hire an assistant, let alone the girl her son got pregnant. Indeed,... (full context)
Chapter Four
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Nadia spends the summer thinking about her mother’s final days—wondering what she must have been experiencing—and... (full context)
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Nadia and Aubrey start having lunch together every day. In this way, Nadia slowly learns more... (full context)
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When Nadia asks if Aubrey’s mother is dead, Aubrey says, “No, no, nothing like that. I just—we... (full context)
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Nadia starts spending all of her time at Aubrey’s house, where Aubrey lives with her sister,... (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... (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 situation. Since the... (full context)
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Nadia spends every night at Aubrey’s house that summer, leaving her Robert alone and causing him... (full context)
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Nadia remembers that she considered illegal abortion pills herself. She would’ve used them, she thinks, if... (full context)
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As the summer draws to a close, Nadia decides she wants to take Aubrey to a party at Cody Richardson’s house—one last visit... (full context)
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At the party, Nadia gets Aubrey drunk. With alcohol working through her system, Aubrey starts dancing with a boy... (full context)
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...Luke’s bedroom door and tells him she knows he’s been spending his time thinking about Nadia, and that he needs to forget about her and move on with his life. She... (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... (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 their... (full context)
Chapter Six
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In Michigan, Nadia meets her new boyfriend Shadi at a Black Student Union meeting. Surrounded by white people,... (full context)
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Shadi is a skilled debater capable of besting seemingly anybody in discussions about equality. During Nadia’s sophomore year, he establishes a school paper “dedicated to reporting news about political movements in... (full context)
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Immersing herself in college life, internships, and travel, Nadia finds excuses to avoid returning home. When she Skypes with Aubrey, she always says she’ll... (full context)
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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... (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 isn’t thrilled to hear... (full context)
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...party hosted by a player named Finch and his wife Cherry, Luke talks about how Nadia got an abortion and how she’s dating somebody else now. “I’m sorry, brother,” Finch says.... (full context)
Chapter Seven
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...for him. He doesn’t know much about Aubrey, other than that both his mother and Nadia like her. Sitting down, Aubrey tells him that she’s going to a local college and... (full context)
Chapter Eight
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Three years after she first left California, Nadia still hasn’t returned. Finally, though, she’s summoned back by a phone call from Aubrey, who... (full context)
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As the wedding approaches, Nadia prepares to return home for the first time since she left for college. Meanwhile, Aubrey... (full context)
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The week before Aubrey’s wedding, Nadia comes home to discover that her father has taken down all the pictures of her... (full context)
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Aubrey is overjoyed to see Nadia at the bridal shower, which takes place in the Sheppards’ backyard. Looping her arm around... (full context)
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Overwhelmed by the party, Nadia escapes to the bathroom to text Shadi. On her way back, she wanders down the... (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 under the bed and extracts a... (full context)
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...weekend before the wedding. We can’t make it, she writes. But congratulations! The next day, Nadia and Aubrey go to the beach and lie in the sun. In her black swimsuit,... (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 her friend that... (full context)
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Two Marines approach Nadia and Aubrey on the beach and ask them to play volleyball, claiming they need two... (full context)
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When the sun starts to rise the next day, Aubrey and Nadia are still awake. Sitting in Robert’s truck, Nadia says she thinks Miller liked Aubrey, and... (full context)
Chapter Nine
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Shadi finally arrives in California, and Robert takes him and Nadia out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. During the meal, Nadia—who has spent the day... (full context)
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That night, Shadi sneaks into Nadia’s bedroom and slips into bed next to her. “I’m such a bitch,” she says, but... (full context)
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Nadia cries three times at Aubrey and Luke’s wedding: when Aubrey walks down the aisle, when... (full context)
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Luke and Nadia finish the liquor, and Luke puts the flask in his pocket. Making their way back... (full context)
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Mrs. Sheppard leaves Nadia standing in the lobby outside the wedding reception. Alone, Nadia processes the fact that Luke... (full context)
Chapter Ten
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While sleeping with Zach, a white boy that Nadia has started casually hooking up with in law school, Nadia receives a phone call from... (full context)
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When Nadia arrives at the hospital after flying to California, her father cries, either “because of the... (full context)
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Robert comes home the following week, and it’s Nadia’s job to tend to him. One evening, right when Nadia finally settles down to get... (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... (full context)
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...via email with Miller, the Marine she met on the beach before her wedding. Apparently, Nadia gave Miller Aubrey’s address before they parted ways on the beach, and though Aubrey was... (full context)
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One night, Robert tells Nadia a story about his own parents. He explains that when he was growing up, his... (full context)
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After telling Nadia the story about his parents, Robert falls asleep. In the afternoon, Nadia has been awake... (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 and Nadia... (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,... (full context)
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As Nadia and Luke’s secret romance unfolds, Aubrey goes to the appointment she made with her doctor... (full context)
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Nadia and Luke continue having sex behind Aubrey’s back. They both pretend to not feel guilty,... (full context)
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...Dr. Yavari, who is hailed in online pregnancy forums as the “baby-maker.” When Aubrey asks Nadia to come to this appointment with her, Nadia immediately says, “I can’t.” However, she can’t... (full context)
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...ask this. Later, when they’re alone in the office and Aubrey is getting dressed again, Nadia says, “I can’t believe she asked you that.” “Asked me what?” Aubrey says. “You know,”... (full context)
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After Nadia says she can’t believe abortion “follows” a person around, Aubrey is certain that her friend... (full context)
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Luke asks Nadia if he can take her on a date. “You can’t,” she says, annoyed by how... (full context)
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Luke leaves Nadia’s house, accidentally forgetting his watch on her nightstand. The next morning, she brings it to... (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... (full context)
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Throughout the fall, Nadia drives the Mothers all over town. Meanwhile, Robert recuperates to the point where he can... (full context)
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Nadia has been spending so much time at Upper Room that the pastor asks her to... (full context)
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...can think about is the baby he lost “years ago,” the baby he “made with Nadia.” As they talk, Aubrey and Russell split a piece of lemon meringue pie. (full context)
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Aubrey accuses Luke of loving Nadia. “Please,” he says, but she tells him he can stop lying, saying she knows he’s... (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 and driving... (full context)
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...decision. He accepts this, and as she leaves, she grabs a stack of letters from Nadia. At the top of the pile, the words Please forgive me are written in “smudged... (full context)
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Luke visits Nadia’s house one day while her father is out walking. Luke tells her that Aubrey has... (full context)
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After Luke says he wants to “know” his daughter, Nadia realizes that “she could do this for him, take the fall.” She could tell Aubrey... (full context)
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Once Nadia tells Luke that she won’t lie for him, he quickly leaves. On his way out,... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
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The morning after Robert finds the golden baby feet, he bursts into Upper Room with Nadia and goes straight for the pastor’s office. The night before, Nadia found him sitting on... (full context)
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Summoning her courage, Nadia speaks up, saying that nobody made her do anything and that she had the abortion... (full context)
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Nadia finally decides to leave California again. As she packs, her father tries halfheartedly to stop... (full context)
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On her way to the airport, Nadia stops at Monique and Kasey’s house and talks to Aubrey, who is now far along... (full context)
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The Mothers recount how the news of Nadia’s abortion spreads through the church. First, Mother Betty overhears Robert yelling at the pastor for... (full context)
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...to attend after hearing about the pastor’s financing of an abortion. Years later, long after Nadia has left California, the Mothers still talk about her, wondering what kind of life she... (full context)
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Since Nadia’s last departure from California, the Mothers have seen her one final time. These days, the... (full context)
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...she sees a pink Barbie bag sitting in the front seat of Robert’s truck as Nadia drives past, and the group speculates that she’s bringing a gift for Aubrey’s daughter. Just... (full context)