Motherhood by Sheila Heti: a visceral and universal journey


Motherhood treats one of the most consequential decisions of early adulthood – whether or not to have children – with the intelligence, wit and originality that have won Sheila Heti international acclaim.

Having reached an age when most of her peers are asking themselves when they will become mothers, Heti’s narrator considers, with the same urgency, whether she will do so at all. Over the course of several years, under the influence of her partner, body, family, friends, mysticism and chance, she struggles to make a moral and meaningful choice.

In a compellingly direct mode that straddles the forms of the novel and the essay, Motherhood raises radical and essential questions about womanhood, parenthood, and how – and for whom – to live.

Taken from the publisher’s website:


Why should you read this book?

Motherhood by Sheila Heti was one of the most important reads of my life. Lara Feigel, in her review on The Guardian, chose a brilliant metaphor to introduce the premise of this book: to breed or not to breed? However, I think it might induce the reader to think that Motherhood is a reflexion on whether or not to become a mother. In my opinion, Sheila Heti started writing this book knowing the answer to Feigel’s questionMotherhood was simply her way of coming to terms with her decision.

This was an extremely personal read and writing this review demands exactly that of myself: a personal review. I am 25 years-old at the moment and I feel too young to be a mother. This is how I feel. But I must be honest and say that I don’t know if I’ll ever be one. For several reasons. Some of my high school and college friends are becoming parents. This is a wake up call. I have my doubts now and I am not sure they’ll ever go away. This means one day I am going to have to decide. It doesn’t help when other people expect certain things from me, as a woman, that make me feel pressured and insecure. It doesn’t help when I say that I might not want children in the future and other people laugh at me like I don’t know what I am saying and that I will obviously change my mind in the future. My question is: what’s wrong with not wanting children? Why is that so shocking and such a condemned decision? Why am I naturally expected to breed just because I am able to?

Sheila Heti created here a work of art, exploring such a fundamental and ancestral issue. Most of the questions raised by the author have been raised by myself. This book felt like a mirror, like an echo. More than pondering the consequences of motherhood, Heti reflected upon the importance of art, genre stereotypes and romantic relationships.

I should also highlight the book structure which is brilliant. Throughout most of the novel, the author resorts to a technique inspired by the I Ching that involves the flipping of coins. This way, answers to the author’s questions will be provided. However, at a certain point, such an aleatory method is not enough. Heti also includes several images that deeply influence the narrative. I would stare at them for ages, assimilating their meaning.

Reading this book was the most visceral and profound journey. Some reviewers on Goodreads claimed that women who are absolutely sure that they want to become a mother shouldn’t read this book. I disagree. I recommend this book to everyone. Even if you’re sure, it is always good and enriching to read about how other women feel about this issue. And if you’re a man, this book is also for you, obviously.

I’d like to thank Vintage for the free copy. You can buy it here.

Book Details:

Publisher: Vintage (Penguin Random House UK)
Published on: May 2018
Format: Hardback
Pages: 304
Price: £16,99


motherhood sheila heti

One thought on “Motherhood by Sheila Heti: a visceral and universal journey

  1. Pingback: August Wrap-Up – Books Turn You On

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