The Wages of Mother-Work

“A grisly, extreme new novel on motherhood, The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar, tells the story of a woman, her husband, and their baby in the mangle of days just after birth. To properly appreciate its accomplishment, we must peel back the familiar connotations of the words nursery, postpartum, lactation, and even motherhood, and acknowledge that such days are some of the most distinctive and harrowing of human life, and they come for the majority of us.”A grisly, extreme new novel on motherhood, The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar, tells the story of a woman, her husband, and their baby in the mangle of days just after birth. To properly appreciate its accomplishment, we must peel back the familiar connotations of the words nursery, postpartum, lactation, and even motherhood, and acknowledge that such days are some of the most distinctive and harrowing of human life, and they come for the majority of us.

Molnar’s wellspring is universal; her features are particularly of our moment; and her flourishes of darkness let in the sublime, with the strains of an accordion and the clunk of an oxygen tank. (The baby—Molnar calls her Button—is quiet, buttoned on, eating.) This book contains some of the most precise and coolly graphic descriptions of becoming a mother, physically and mentally, that I have come across. Though the book avoids the culture wars, the protagonist’s experience suggests difficult truths about what this profoundly physical and female-bodied experience can be like for women with today’s expectations, and for their male partners dragged along in the wake. No one likes to talk about these things, but we ought to. The Nursery deserves to be widely read.”


Subscribe