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The School for Good Mothers

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  29,839 ratings  ·  5,234 reviews
An alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781982156121 can be found here.

In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. What’s worse is she can’t persuade her hu
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 4th 2022 by Simon & Schuster
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Susan Skip it. Very much about societal expectations of perfection in mothering at a future time. Also about unfair treatment of women. Very sad and depress…moreSkip it. Very much about societal expectations of perfection in mothering at a future time. Also about unfair treatment of women. Very sad and depressing.(less)

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Mar 27, 2022 rated it liked it
Loved the premise for this book and immediately felt sympathy for the main character and her struggles as a mother. Though this dystopian school is exaggerated, it exemplifies the way motherhood is scrutinized and dehumanized. You are expected to be 100% perfect all the time or be seen as a terrible human being, thus you have to give up everything and let your whole life revolve around your child. There’s also some brief, interesting points the book makes with the main character’s upbringing and ...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
Aug 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hurray! Happy book birthday to my 900th review on NG!

Welcome to dystopian new world which turned into worst nightmares of mothers where their children are taken to the reform schools as their motherhood skills are scrutinized by being put under microscope of government. Any wrongdoings, misbehaves, faults are punished by not being able to see your child for a long time!

The story is centered on Frida, whose worst day results with her child’s taken by reform school. She’s cheated by her husband
Lisa of Troy
Dec 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
Female dystopian that doesn’t hold up against the competition

Frida Liu has a very bad parenting day resulting in The State sentencing her to a one-year school to become a better mother. What will the school be like and will Frida be reunited with her daughter?

The School for Good Mothers is Jessamine Chan’s debut novel, and it was a solid first draft in a very competitive subgenre. This book is intended to be an updated The Handmaid’s Tale; however, The Handmaid’s Tale it is not. Most important:
“The School for Good Mothers” is a dystopian look at the government’s far reach into child welfare and social services. This story kept me enraged; it’s a cautionary tale in allowing over-zealous government control.

Frida Liu is an exhausted 39-year-old single mother of an 18-month-old daughter at the start of the novel. Her husband left her while she was pregnant; he took up with an independently wealthy 28-year-old Pilates instructor. Frida had a very bad day. After many nights of insomnia and
“Now, repeat after me: I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good.”
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC of The School for Good Mothers in exchange for an honest review.

The School for Good Mothers is the story of Frida, a 39-year-old mother of a toddler, Harriet. She struggles with co-parenting after her ex-husband ran off with his mistress. So, at the height of what she will relentlessly think of as her “very bad day,” Frida leaves Harriet alone in an exersaucer in
Elyse  Walters
Jun 04, 2022 rated it it was ok
Update — an apology:
I think it was fine for me to say I didn’t like this book. But I think it was really cruel of me to say “it was a waste of time”….
Because it wasn’t. I’m still thinking about a book that I dislike so it couldn’t be that big of a waste of time.
Reading other reviews and other points of views have been helpful.

And more importantly a statement like WASTE of TIME Is flipped, it’s harsh, judging other peoples time, judging my own time, and acting like I’m a waste and everybody else
Feb 02, 2022 marked it as dnf

I’m sorry guys—I’m bailing out!!

I only got about a third of the way through, but I don’t think this is the ~vibe~ for me right now. Clearly I’m not going to be a great resource for why you should or should not read this but some of the feedback from my book club chat was—“repetitive in the middle”, “stressful & boring” and just kind of……I don’t know, weird?

There’s for sure some interesting concepts here, with commentary on the surveillance state, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, etc., so I woul
Maiden Misty's Musings
After leaving her toddler daughter alone for two hours, Frida Liu is deemed to be a bad mother. The court has started a new program for parents that need to be "fixed". Frida along with almost 200 other women are sent to the program to learn how to be a proper mother. She has to complete the program or face losing her child. She has to attend the dumbest classes I have heard of to learn how to properly speak, bathe, care, and feed her child. Frida also has to learn to coexist with other women an ...more
lark benobi
I had an unexpected and very personal reaction to this novel. I didn't buy it. I kept wondering: "Why would you leave your kid alone in the first place?" and judging the mother because she did that. Since my core sympathy as a reader is meant to be for the mother, the novel didn't work for me.

The inciting incident, of a protagonist going out and leaving her baby alone in the house for hours, feels so unlikely to me that it would only work for me in a memoir--"it really happened that way" is hard
Whitney Erwin
I was really excited to read this book and had super high hopes going in. It sounded intriguing. The book started off super interesting and then it just got too dark and creepy for me. The surveillance cameras to watch Frida in her home and then the school was just too over the top extreme for me. It was hard to read, especially I think being a mother myself. I was satisfied with the ending however, I had to push myself to finish the book to get there. This one was just not for me.

This book wil
Julia Phillips
Oct 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Gutting and terrifying. Vivid and exquisite. I hate that this book isn’t out yet — I want to give it to everyone I know, make them all read it, and then talk about it together forever. There’s so much to say. What a sharp, anxiety-provoking, superb book. “Unputdownable” is too faint praise. What a novel.
Donna Davis
So much build up; so much promise. What a crying shame. This dystopian novel is conceptually strong, addressing the invasive nature of facial recognition software and government access to what should be private digital communication, but the execution is abysmal.

I received a review copy from Net Galley and Simon and Schuster.

Frida Liu is a new mother, and she’s got problems. She has severe postpartum depression, and she’s home alone with her baby, all day and all night, trying to work from hom
I am struggling with how to review this one because the writing and the premise of this book are good, but I didn't enjoy it? I don't know, just hear me out! I was really excited to read Jessamine Chan's debut dystopian novel, The School for Good Mothers because I was hearing that it had Handmaid's Tale vibes. In today's current political climate, these types of books are great self reflections on how we need to keep in mind what is happening in our society.

When Frida Liu leaves her daughte
Apr 25, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate the questions and concerns that the author raises about modern day parenting, but the execution is so over the top ridiculous that I can’t even finish it.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 23, 2022 rated it liked it
As a mother myself, being separated from my children would be a living nightmare so I found the premise of this story frightening.

As a parent myself, I don't claim to be a perfect parent whatsoever and admittingly I've made a mountain of mistakes at parenting but...
I would never have left my child home alone, unattended for 2 hours! I think what Frida did was selfish but I also didn't believe she deserved to be away for an entire year.

When it comes to the social commentary on how harshly we ju
'The School for Good Mothers' by Jessamine Chan was very different from any other book I have encountered to date. Main character Frida Liu comes from a traditional Chinese family with all the "typical" expectations of being the perfect mother, wife, and daughter. She is frustrated (and seemingly bored) with her role as a work at home mom and primary caregiver to her young daughter, Harriet. She makes one bad decision (what she refers to continually as her "very bad day") in regards to protectin ...more
This is a dystopian new world story.
Not my usual read however, it was pretty understandable even for me!

So here’s a Mother with a young child left to bring her child up alone. Her husband went off with a younger woman. He still takes time for his child and her but, Frida is trying to work, look after her child, come to grips with dealing with her family and her Chinese inheritance with they’re ways and rituals of “doing things”, and still being accepted on both sides of her life.

We learn of Fr
Val (pagespoursandpups)
Sep 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Wow, this book just left me in a little trance, unable to think of much else all day. This dystopian society was a little too close to the way our society seems to be heading regarding motherhood. The unrealistic self-expectations and the expectations that society puts on mothers to hold everything together while making it look easy.

Frida, in the midst of a broken marriage and an unfulfilling career has one very bad day (as she terms it). Frida, a middle class, Chinese leaves her not yet 2-year
Misha (Heartsfullofreads)
Jan 23, 2022 rated it really liked it
*** 3.5 Stars***

What makes a bad Mother?
This is the question that Frida and other women will have to ask at a school to learn to be better. Frida's offense? She left her toddler daughter home alone on one very bad day.

I struggled while reading this. I never really liked Frida. She made a conscious decision to leave her daughter home alone. It did not sit well with me.

Mothers are judged harshly every day. Women are blamed each day for accidents. Your baby falls, why were you not watching them? Wh
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Published in the UK htoday 3-3-22

This book is a future dystopian novel (albeit set in almost the immediate present and not requiring much of a leap of imagination or significant extrapolation from current societal practices) about the rights of parents (particularly mothers) to raise their own children versus the rights of society to teach and effectively impose minimum and agreed standards of parenting for the protection of the children and of their role in society in future.

The close third par
May 22, 2022 rated it liked it
Jessamine Chen's debut novel is a dystopian fantasy set in a not too distant future. A 39-year-old single mother, Frida Liu, had a "very bad parenting day." After sleeping intermittently, she decided to go out for a cup of coffee, leaving her 18-month-old daughter Harriet alone, strapped to a bouncer. Frida then went to the office to pick up some paperwork and, while there, decided to catch up on some e-mails. She was gone two and a half hours when she received a call from the police because
Diane Ferbrache
I'm so sorry I finished this book. I almost gave up at about 25%, then again at 50%, then decided that there must be something I was missing so I plodded along. (Shakes head!!)

Some critics have compared it to Handmaid's Tale, and the premise is (unfortunately) more plausible in the short run and has the same chilling effect as Atwood's novel. The similarity stops there. Frida had a very bad day and did the unthinkable. She left her 16 month old daughter along while Frida left the house for a cou
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
QUICK TAKE: as a new parent, this book was ROUGH. A woman is sentenced to a 1-year prison reform program for "bad" mothers, where they are forced to go through various parenting classes in order to win back custody of their kids. It reminded me a lot of Joanne Ramos's book THE FARM, but is so sad and traumatic and anxiety-inducing that I struggled to finish. The book is also told in a very clinical way, and I'm not sure if that's on purpose. I'm going to read some additional reviews for some add ...more
Laura Tenfingers
Jun 11, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, sci-fi
This book sounded like the perfect book for me and it opened with some gut-wrenching that really had me by the short and curlies. Unfortunately it had a major flaw that kept me at arm's length for a while, but by then end she reeled me back in and I turned the final page feeling wow, that was great.

Frida left her 18 month old daughter home alone in a bouncy chair for 2.5 hours. She got busted and in this dystopian world of Big Brother controlling motherhood, she got punished. And punished. And p
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, my-favs
THIS book. From the first pages, I knew it would be one of my favorite books I've read in a long time. After reading the Handmaid's Tale over a decade ago I've been searching for a dystopian novel that addresses women's issues with the same blunt rawness through amazing storytelling. The School for Good Mothers did exactly that. The stories are so completely different, but the emotional journey was similar. This book ripped the curtain back on something every mom experiences almost daily from ot ...more
i have high hopes for the show, which is in development. details here

1⭐ Bland and Neutral

so, the basic premise is that the mother leaves her child unsupervised and gets into trouble for the same. in this dystopic version of society, she gets sent to a reform school. intriguing!

we are expected to, naturally, side with the mother. however, what I saw were some red flags from her which made me uncomfortable and unsure about her being given back the custody of the child.

the writing wasn't bad but it
emily • emilybookedup
all i can say about this book is “woah” and “wow” 😧🤭😳😱🤯🤨

not the type of subject matter that can be rated, so leaving one off. appreciated parts of the ending. this book will definitely stick with me 😅

very triggering, especially for mothers and more specifically, new moms.

it’s a very slow burn/build. not a ton “happens” so needed to shift my mindset a bit while reading to manage those expectations.

thank you to Simon & Schuester for sending me a gifted copy!
Peter Boyle
Jun 02, 2022 rated it it was ok
The School for Good Mothers is a dystopian tale set in the near future. Frida is a single mother, living in Philadelphia with her 18-month-old daughter Harriet. Struggling under the pressures of parenthood and a busy job, she leaves Harriet alone at home for a couple of hours while she goes to pick up some papers from work. The authorities are informed. Harriet is taken away to live with her father Gust and his new partner Susanna. Meanwhile Frida is confined to a reform school, where she will l ...more
Toria (some what in hiatus)
Jan 30, 2022 rated it really liked it
I'm not a mother nor do I ever want to be so I didn't think that I would enjoy the book but wanted to give it a go. Well, enjoyed it isn't the right word for it but the story was engaging and struck a personal cord inside me. The ending hit me hard and I'm mot usually someone who gets emotional in books but wow. ...more
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Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Brown University. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Jentel, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Anderson Center, VCCA, and Ragdale. ...more

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Discovering a favorite new author is one of the genuine thrills of maintaining a serious reading habit. It’s interesting to reflect that all...
28 likes · 14 comments
“A mother is always giving. A mother never falls apart. A mother is a buffer between her child and the cruel world.
Absorb it, the instructors say. Take it. Take it.”
“By staying calm, they’re showing their child that a mother can handle anything. A mother is always patient. A mother is always kind. A mother is always giving. A mother never falls apart. A mother is the buffer between her child and the cruel world.” 3 likes
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