The Mothers

The Mothers Character Analysis

A group of elderly women who attend Upper Room, the church that Nadia and her father attend in Oceanside, California. Deeply religious and moralistic, the Mothers practice “intercessory prayer,” which means that they pray on behalf of other people in the congregation. In keeping with their belief that they can “become” other people through intercessory prayer, the Mothers narrate portions of the novel using a collective voice to provide insight into how the church community views Nadia and the secret of her abortion. One of the women in this group is Mother Betty, the pastor’s secretary who overhears Robert Turner yelling at Mr. Sheppard and learns that the pastor paid for Nadia’s abortion. Betty repeats this news to the other Mothers, who spread the gossip throughout Upper Room, ultimately forcing the church to close its doors in response to the scandal. Throughout the novel, the Mothers create and perpetuate gossip, seen even in the final moments of the novel, when the Mothers still speculate about Nadia even though she has long since left California.

The Mothers Quotes in The Mothers

The The Mothers quotes below are all either spoken by The Mothers or refer to The Mothers . 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:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Mothers quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Mothers LitChart as a printable PDF.
The mothers.pdf.medium

The Mothers Character Timeline in The Mothers

The timeline below shows where the character The Mothers 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
A Greek chorus of churchgoers known as the Mothers opens by saying, “We didn’t believe when we first heard because you know how church... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them,” the Mothers say, asserting that they wish they took a moment to consider the taste of this... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Mothers admit that all of the stories they’ve heard about Nadia might not be true, but... (full context)
Chapter Two
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Ten years ago, the Mothers write, Upper Room protested the very same abortion clinic that Nadia has now visited as... (full context)
Chapter Three
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
The Mothers explain that they practice intercessory prayer, taking on the burdens of their community members. “We... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
...congregation had already condemned her mother” for committing suicide. After the funeral, one of the Mothers hugged her and said, “I just can’t believe she did that to you.” (full context)
Chapter Four
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Mothers recount the last time they saw Elise Turner (they were apparently the last ones to... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Aubrey surprises Luke by visiting him at the rehab center on behalf of the Mothers, who have asked her to deliver a blanket they knit for him. He doesn’t know... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
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 affair. The Mothers reveal... (full context)
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... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...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 to abandon her father... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
The Mothers recount how the news of Nadia’s abortion spreads through the church. First, Mother Betty overhears... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...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 leads. One of them insists... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Since Nadia’s last departure from California, the Mothers have seen her one final time. These days, the Mothers gather on a porch on... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
One of the Mothers claims she sees a pink Barbie bag sitting in the front seat of Robert’s truck... (full context)