• The School for Good Mothers

  • A Novel
  • By: Jessamine Chan
  • Narrated by: Catherine Ho
  • Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins
  • 3.7 out of 5 stars (1,224 ratings)
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The School for Good Mothers

By: Jessamine Chan
Narrated by: Catherine Ho
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Publisher's summary

Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Longlisted for the 2023 Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Shortlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize
Selected as One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2022!

In this New York Times bestseller and Today show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance, in this “surreal” (People), “remarkable” (Vogue), and “infuriatingly timely” (The New York Times Book Review) debut novel.

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.

Until Frida has a very bad day.

The state has its eye on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgement, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.

Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.

An “intense” (Oprah Daily), “captivating” (Today) page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.

©2022 Jessamine Chan. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic reviews

"Ho holds the listener captive as she narrates this deeply engrossing portrait of the boundless depth of a mother’s love. Her exquisite narration channels a heartbreaking, terrifying, and prescient story that leaves the listener gutted." (AudioFile Magazine)

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What listeners say about The School for Good Mothers

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What in the world?

I kept waiting for the story to turn around. I wish I would have not given at the time that I did. I would NOT recommend reading this book, especially if you are a mother yourself.

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17 people found this helpful

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Practically Perfect

I don’t have words to adequately express how moving and insightful this book turned out to be. It sends a clear and important message, but the author never made me feel I was being lectured or preached to. The main character is imperfect, but so relatable because of those imperfections. The choices she makes aren’t always good ones, but I could always understand why she made them.

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14 people found this helpful

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  • HC
  • 01-17-22

dissappointed

I really wanted to like this. I got through it, but it was quite disappointing. It felt like it was trying to be like the Handmaid's Tale, but none of the characters were sympathetic or interesting.

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10 people found this helpful

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Poorly written, poor narration

I don’t no why I stuck it out with this book. The narrator was bland and emotionless. She droned on and on. And the writing was amateurish and the story, even though trying to be dystopian, just simply didn’t make sense. Don’t waste your time or money.

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So Much To Keep Me Hooked

First I was hooked by how relatable this mother was from the start. Not so much what she did, but how she felt, her past and her present could have been pages from my biography (if I had one).
I am a fan of horror stories and sci-fi and I like the altered reality twist which teetered this story on the edge of horror for me (and likely most mothers). The sci-fi surprise was nicely laced into the story with great humor in many many instances!
The third perk in this story was that cross culture education. The Chinese mother in this story and the Black-American mother reading it had so many things in common… There was a scene in the book that happens to me in a lot of the places I go. It was eye opening to read of it also occurring to other minority groups as well.
I love that the author does not fear touching on controversial subjects like… what qualifies as ‘good’ parenting and what role the gov’t plays in that for men and women.
Overall, this book was a scary possible future. I would be more terrified of this book if my kid were younger, but I’ve survived 16 years without being sent to this school…I am not a bad mother! ;-)

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ZZ

Interesting idea, but depressing. I kept waiting for something to come if it and it never did.

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4 people found this helpful

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Extremely Painful

I can’t say it’s a wonderful book because I can’t remember feeling so much anger,sadness and despair while listening/reading a novel. I had to take breaks. As a counselor who worked with mothers and children separated from each other on the recommendations of exhausted, boundary less Social workers and unqualified immature, barely trained CPS workers, and the so called evidence based programs ( follow the money ) and I’m disgusted to report that this system already exists; minus the dolls, as far as I know.
Ms. Chan managed to accurately address so many of the ways our white systems have interfered, razed and traumatized generations of BIPOC, especially women. Frieda’s life and truth is as complex and multi- dimensional as any human beings and we got to see that . The truth without context is worse than a lie because it’s a lie parading as the truth .
Who decides who is a good enough parent and how ? The interventions must be done at times.
I don’t want to give too much away but I recommend the work of Dr. Donald Winnicott for perspective on “ A good enough parent.”
Ms. Chan, Thank you for this beautiful horrible book.
*I know many incredible social workers and and much fewer adequate CPS workers. Earlier comments weren’t meant to demean all social workers .

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The school for good mothers

After reading this book I would say I hated the way that made the main character fight for her child and then turned her down the state was supposed to help her win and they failed her and it make me as a mother feel grateful and hurt at the same time that something like this can happen. But overall I love that thought of the school and how it was supposed to help

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Depressing

I purchased the book because I read it was like The Handmaid’s Tale. However, The School For Good Mothers does not develop characters and give any hope. The story continuously goes down hill not showing any strength in women jus women being beaten down by the system they are in.

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3 people found this helpful

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Disturbing commentary on modern motherhood

Spoilers ***** This novel examines the idea of the perfect mother and questions the rights of the state regarding who should decide the placement of an “abused” child and what punishment or rehabilitation their “bad parents” should receive. Using incredibly lifelike robotic dolls to simulate children, parents who “fail” are required to practice their parenting skills in an oppressive, controlled environment. It is unclear who wins in this abusive system, and the ending is very unsatisfying. This novel will make you think, but it won’t make you feel good, so avoid it if you are reading for pleasure. This novel would probably be a good book club choice because there is SO MUCH to talk about. TW: sexual assault, suicide, mental and physical abuse, depression, abandonment.

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2 people found this helpful