Review: Motherhood by Sheila Heti


Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Rating: ⭑⭒⭒⭒⭒

Date Published: June 7, 2018

Date(s) Read: March 25 — 26, 2019

Length: 284 pages

(A slightly different version of this review posted on Goodreads as well.)

Wow, big day today. First ever rant review of the blog. I’m not going to lie, my high in sodium ass is a little excited to be writing one of these.

Initially I wasn’t even planning on reviewing this book, but OH BOY, do I have lots to say about it, so here we are.

Before reading further, this review contains a lot of spoilers. Because apparently part of the market appeal of this book is that it asks the question whether or not to be a mother, the synopsis clearly doesn’t tell you her decision, and the obviousness of her decision is a part of my review. Also, there’s no real plot or characters so it’s hard to even think about what would be a spoiler for this book so I haven’t marked anything as spoilers. If you plan to read this and don’t want to be spoiled, this isn’t the review for you. Now onto what you all came here for.

So, I got this book from the library, and I’m glad I didn’t pay money for this garbage because… No.

Well, not entirely no. It got 2 stars, because there were two things total that I liked about it. First, the format made it a really quick read which was nice because the book I read previously was about the same-ish length and took me twice as long. Second, the question of whether or not to have kids is one that I find extremely relatable, and the exploration of deciding not to have kids as a valid life choice is something I think is extremely important within fiction.

Every single thing about the execution though either made me apathetic or disappointed me.

First, the whole question of whether to be a mother. From the beginning I already knew what the narrator was going to decide and that’s fine but then make that the premise of your book: accepting that you don’t want kids when society thinks you should, not that you’re truly questioning the decision not to have kids in the first place.

Occasionally there’d be a line I agreed with and liked but often times these were single lines and paragraphs surrounded by other stuff that had me raising my eyebrows or saying, “What?” out loud to myself and not because I was confused but because I just couldn’t think of any other way to react. Additionally, any “insights” this book laid out were things I’ve already managed to figure out independently in my life and I’m a whole seventeen years younger than the narrator of this book. I don’t dislike the relatability, but shouldn’t this woman have figured these things out already? Then again, she does seem way younger than her age throughout the whole book.

There were no characters whatsoever. The narrator isn’t named, which might be an interesting choice, but her only seeming personality trait is that she’s a crybaby, and to be honest the more I read the more I just assumed that she was a not even attempted to be veiled self-insert for the author. Her long-term boyfriend, Miles’ only stand-out feature is that he was tall and wearing eyeliner the first time she saw him. All they do is fight and all the narrator does is cry and then get mad at Miles for not validating her crying, and all he does is ignore her when she cries, and everything about their relationship made me think that it was two thirteen-year-olds together, not two people nearing forty.

Other women friends of the narrator’s are occasionally named throughout the book but they lack any importance, characterizations, or agency, so I couldn’t tell them apart and the only name I remember is Libby.

This book is classified as fiction, but the whole thing just feels like a thought experiment the author repackaged to be fiction. There’s a lot of asking coins questions for yes/no answers and the whole time that was going on I was just thinking that she might as well have used a magic 8-ball, and she herself even says at one point that she knows the coin-flipping is just random chance— even though she pays a woman on the street who claims to be psychic a bunch of money for a random interaction and has her tarot read. So does she believe in divination or not? Which is it?

Speaking of “Which is it?” That’s a question I asked again in the book because at one point she states that women who choose to live childless lives aren’t choosing that path as a judgment on women who choose differently— which I totally agree with— and then later she gets mad at one of her friends (Libby 1? Libby 2? Libby 3?) who becomes pregnant because she says the friend is abandoning her and “society as a whole” to “turn towards her child.” (Those may not be direct quotes as I already returned the book to the library, but you get the point.)

Abortion is touched on, which was a positive. But for a woman who has had an abortion as a young woman, and who doesn’t think she wants kids to use the pull-out method? How stupid are you, bitch? Maybe if you went on birth control you’d stop crying all the time because of your hormones. SHE IS ALMOST FORTY, in case you forgot. She even tells her doctor that she and her long-term boyfriend use the pull-out method and the doctor asks if she’d be okay having kids. Newsflash, idiot: Fantasizing about your boyfriend’s seed inside you isn’t the same as being okay with raising a whole child. I didn’t need 284 pages of wank for you to figure that out at the age of fucking forty.

Another thing that infuriated me was a single paragraph at about the halfway point of the book.

I always felt jealous of gay men who spoke of having to come out. I felt I would like to come out too— but as what?

She goes on the next few sentences to claim that gay men are lucky for getting to come out because it means they know what they are and I cannot even begin to describe to you how mad this made me at the book. I stopped even thinking about what I liked after this because the rest of the book I was still mad about it.

I have also had to grapple with the question of my own sexuality. “Coming out,” is not some kind of privilege. She knows she’s straight, but doesn’t know whether she wants to be a mother. Just like I’m sure some men who know they’re gay don’t know whether they want to be fathers. I don’t know, I’m a bisexual woman, not a gay man, so thinking of gay men as multifaceted human beings with a multitude of life experiences outside of their sexuality might be entirely wrong! Also, it’s interesting she only mentions gay men and not lesbian women, bisexual people, asexual people, or even touch on gender identity.

This entire book is a performative, self-involved look at the question of “motherhood” from the perspective of an insufferable middle-aged, middle-class, crybaby. In my opinion it shouldn’t even be shelved as “fiction,” but more importantly, one of the top shelves for this book on Goodreads is “Feminism.” I think we need to amend that to “White feminism.”

Overall I don’t recommend this book except to people who I guess like books lacking characters or plot or tension of any kind but have a whole lot of stupidity. I’m pretty sure I was part of the target audience— being a white woman in my childbearing years myself— and all this book succeeded in was making me hate it.

And actually, now that I’ve written all this out, I think I’m going to drop my rating on here and Goodreads down to 1 star.

4 thoughts on “Review: Motherhood by Sheila Heti

    1. Yeahhhh… I’m extra disappointed because I had really high hopes for this one going in on top of being so awful. One of my favorite BookTubers loved it and now I’m not sure whether I can trust her opinions anymore, lol.


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