The Mothers

by

Brit Bennett

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Mothers can help.

Robert Turner Character Analysis

A former Marine, the late Elise Turner’s husband, and Nadia’s father. After his wife’s suicide, Robert finds himself incapable of supporting his daughter emotionally. Instead of reaching out to her, he directs his own grief into volunteering to run errands for the Upper Room church community with his truck. He also starts attending every single church service, effectively avoiding his life at home and ignoring the rift growing between him and his daughter. Robert is a reserved man who has trouble articulating his emotions. This is evidenced by the fact that he avoids using the word “abortion” when he discovers that Nadia underwent the procedure, merely saying, “You did this thing?” This refusal to use the word “abortion” also denotes his strong religious morals regarding the procedure, a disapproving outlook that emerges when he yells at the pastor for helping Nadia afford the abortion. In turn, Robert’s loud reprimanding of Mr. Sheppard is what leads to the crumbling of the Upper Room community, since Mother Betty overhears their conversation and spreads the rumor that the pastor paid for Nadia’s abortion.

Robert Turner Quotes in The Mothers

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

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:
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:
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 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

Robert Turner Character Timeline in The Mothers

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Turner 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
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...They explain that Nadia is seventeen when this happens, and that she’s living with her father, Robert, but not with her mother, Elise, because Elise committed suicide six months ago. Since... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
...could be alone with your grief.” Nadia likes this privacy, which contrasts with how her father has been coping with hardship. Robert has thrown himself into the church, attending both Sunday... (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...stay inside.” In fact, she didn’t even cry at her mother’s funeral, literally supporting her father at one point while he broke down in tears. At Fat Charlie’s, Luke flirts with... (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
One night that winter, Nadia’s father goes out of town, so she invites Luke to her house. She wants to offer... (full context)
Chapter Two
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...on the news someday for bombing clinics or stabbing doctors.” Still, while the protest lasted, Robert Turner drove to the clinic every morning in his beloved pickup truck to deliver the... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
These days, Robert is known as “the man with the truck” because of how much he uses it... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
After Nadia’s abortion (and finally getting a ride home from a volunteer at the clinic), Robert comes home to find her in bed. Explaining her stomach cramps, she tells her father... (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Nadia drives Robert’s truck to Fat Charlie’s in search of Luke, who’s nowhere to be seen. Acting on... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
...to her mother’s suicide, watching in her mind’s eye as Elise drives through town with Robert’s “service pistol” in her lap. Although Elise wanted to die on the beach, it’s dawn... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Coming into the driveway with her father’s truck after Cody Richardson’s party, Nadia turns too sharply and hits a tree. Now, as... (full context)
Chapter Three
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...hear about her drunken escapades. As they pray for her, they also feel sorry for Robert, who they say has been through too much already, since Elise shot her own head... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
In the days after crashing Robert’s truck, Nadia stays home. Upset that she’s ruined the “one thing” her father loves, she’s... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
...Nadia rushes upstairs and crouches by a window that opens onto the yard, where her father and the pastor are talking. She hears the pastor say he heard about what happened... (full context)
Chapter Five
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Nadia spends every night at Aubrey’s house that summer, leaving her Robert alone and causing him to wonder if Nadia is wearing out her welcome, though she... (full context)
Chapter Eight
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
The week before Aubrey’s wedding, Nadia comes home to discover that her father has taken down all the pictures of her mother. That night, she calls Shadi, who’s... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...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 Aubrey considers telling her friend what... (full context)
Chapter Nine
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Shadi finally arrives in California, and Robert takes him and Nadia out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. During the meal, Nadia—who... (full context)
Chapter Ten
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Nadia receives a phone call from the hospital in her hometown, informing her that her father has been severely injured. Apparently, he dropped his weights on his chest while working out... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
When Nadia arrives at the hospital after flying to California, her father cries, either “because of the pain or because he [is] glad to see her, or... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Robert comes home the following week, and it’s Nadia’s job to tend to him. One evening,... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...been promoted at his rehab job and has also started spending his time helping his father at Upper Room, so Aubrey often finds herself alone. When she asks Luke to accompany... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
One night, Robert tells Nadia a story about his own parents. He explains that when he was growing... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
After telling Nadia the story about his parents, Robert falls asleep. In the afternoon, Nadia has been awake for twenty-four hours when she hears... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...next day, Luke and Nadia kiss in the bathroom when he comes over to deliver Robert’s medicine. Luke and Nadia go to her bedroom, where they ease onto her bed. This... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Nadia and Luke start spending almost everyday together in her father’s house. They usually have sex, but sometimes they just talk, enjoying each other’s company. In... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Throughout the fall, Nadia drives the Mothers all over town. Meanwhile, Robert recuperates to the point where he can take walks around the neighborhood on his own.... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...Luke or Nadia. During this time, Nadia stays in California, continuing take care of her father and driving the Mothers to Upper Room. She thinks about leaving, but can’t bring herself... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Luke visits Nadia’s house one day while her father is out walking. Luke tells her that Aubrey has taken her letters, and “For the... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
...“ensnared a good man who was only trying to help her care for her sick father.” However, she doubts Aubrey would actually believe this lie, asking herself whether “any woman” would... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...she won’t lie for him, he quickly leaves. On his way out, he passes Nadia’s father, who has returned from his walk and heard the tail-end of this conversation. Having heard... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
The morning after Robert finds the golden baby feet, he bursts into Upper Room with Nadia and goes straight... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...had the abortion because she simply didn’t want a baby. “So you kill it?” her father says, looking at her with disgust in his eyes. “No one made me do anything,”... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Nadia finally decides to leave California again. As she packs, her father tries halfheartedly to stop her, as if he’s expected to tell her to stay. Nadia... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...recount how the news of Nadia’s abortion spreads through the church. First, Mother Betty overhears Robert yelling at the pastor for financing the abortion. Betty then whispers to the other Mothers... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...pants but they never look new.” One such day, they see Nadia driving by in Robert’s truck. She’s in her thirties now, though she looks the same. The Mothers wonder why... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...the Mothers claims 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... (full context)