It is always a pleasant surprise whenever I find an author referring to trichotillomania and/or other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) in their novels. I love the feeling of reading and randomly stumbling upon a BFRB reference- my heart skips a beat! I recognize this! I do this! But there was a downside. I used to find myself wishing the author did it differently or mentioned the disorders by name. Sometimes the way they handled the BFRB reference(s) would sway my opinion of the book, author, or both. It might seem silly but it's true! As I've gotten older I've mellowed out a bit and now just appreciate that the disorders were mentioned at all. Yay for growth!
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan is, in my opinion, a very disturbing novel that details a mother's fight to win back custody of her daughter. I enjoyed Chan's style of writing but I couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and unfairness. I remember texting a friend after a particularly emotional chapter, "I'm fuming!!!!!!!"
With that said, if you'd like to learn more or read an excerpt click here!
The BFRB references start very early in the book (page 6!) and as I got to know the world that these characters lived in and the characters themselves, it made complete sense to me that they would experience them. BFRBs are a self-soothing behavior by nature and these women were going through something extremely traumatic while being cut off from their loved ones and support systems. It was almost as though they had no other choice but to turn to their BFRBs to self-soothe.
Here are some of the BFRB references I highlighted in my Kindle app.
A lot of BFRB references, right? I thought so too.
I really like that Chan included multiple BFRBs. Most people hear about hair-pulling and skin-picking, if they hear about BFRBs at all, but there are more. Other BFRBs include cheek biting, lip biting/chewing/picking, tongue chewing, nail picking, and nose picking. It made me wonder if Chan had any experience with BFRBs herself.
I also like that Frida, the main character, has more than one BFRB. It is common for people to experience more than one BFRB during their lifetime. This is something I learned about myself- not because of the book but because of the work that I do now. Besides having trichotillomania for twenty-two years, I have also experienced dermatillomania and lip-chewing. Some people have multiple BFRBs simultaneously while others have one BFRB at a time but rotate through different ones. Of course this varies person to person.
If you've read The School for Good Mothers I'd love to hear your opinion! If you haven't yet but do end up reading it please let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts!