It is my brother's and my shared belief that a single fast food meal eaten on or about June 6, 1982, ruined the relationship between us in a way that we still don't understand, and from which we have yet to recover. Please bear with me as I set the stage for this incident—an incident which I believe, in its sum, to be as tidy an aperçus as can exist for the essence of siblinghood.
The year was 1974 and things in New York, in a word, sucked. The city was in financial meltdown. Bankruptcy and the famous Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead" were only a year away. Maybe the meltdown was part of the reason Bob Dylan was back in his townhouse on MacDougal Street, just north of Houston. He and his wife Sara were on the rocks after almost a decade together. A melting-down city and a melting-down marriage.
At the time, I lived in a $200-a-month loft on the fourth floor of 124 West Houston, on the edge of Soho, then still an industrial wasteland. Dylan had a practice space on the first floor, right around the corner from his MacDougal Street residence. When I'd rented my loft three years before and the landlord informed me that Dylan was on the first floor, I found it completely unremarkable. You read about how Dylan had decamped from New York in those years — first for Woodstock, then Santa Fe, then Malibu — but he was so much a part of the fabric of the city that there was never a sense he'd left. Of course when I rented a loft on Houston Street, Dylan would be in the building.
Call a book “The Mothers” and you’ve burdened it from the jump. You’ve gotten every back in the room up, tapped into lizard-brain levels of vulnerability and need, and added a generous dose of comfort or contempt to whatever comes next. Whom do we feel more conflicted about than mothers? To Brit Bennett’s credit, her ferociously moving debut lives up to its title, never once allowing readers a simplistic view of the maternal pain at its center.