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Novels Exploring the Moral Dilemmas of Parenthood: Background information when reading The Book Eaters

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The Book Eaters

by Sunyi Dean

The Book Eaters by  Sunyi Dean X
The Book Eaters by  Sunyi Dean
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2023, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Novels Exploring the Moral Dilemmas of Parenthood

This article relates to The Book Eaters

Print Review

The protagonist in Sunyi Dean's novel The Book Eaters repeatedly finds herself compelled to carry out cruel acts against others in order to protect her young son. This moral dilemma is central to the character's development and forces readers to consider a difficult question: If a parent does bad things for the good of their child, can the ends ever justify the means? This is a fascinating topic sure to inspire debate, which is why authors have often been drawn to tackle it. Here are some other examples of books that explore moral dilemmas related to parenthood.

Covers of books exploring the moral dilemmas of parenthood

In My Name Is Monster by Katie Hale, our main character has survived alone for years in a world decimated by disease. Her existence is turned upside down when she finds and takes in a young feral girl. Complex and layered, the narrative explores the endurance of societal roles, the demands of motherhood and the dangers of attempting to shape children into mirror images of ourselves.

Other People's Children by R.J. Hoffmann is a propulsive novel centered around a near-impossible choice. It follows a couple whose dream of adopting is shattered when the biological mother of their new baby attempts to reclaim the child. The emotional stakes are huge on both sides, making it easy to sympathize even when characters make rash and potentially devastating decisions.

In Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Malorie is attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where people are stalked by an unknown force that kills with a single look. As a result, she raises her children with cold, military precision. It's a harsh existence that forces her to consider the line between surviving and living, but it's also the only way she can prepare them for the dangers ahead.

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick is a speculative novel set in a world where babies can be grown externally in artificial wombs. This eliminates the physical risks of pregnancy and birth, and puts parents on an even footing in terms of work and care responsibilities. Diving into the ethical and societal implications of chasing true equality, and the dangers of pushing science too far, Sedgwick presents us with fleshed-out, sympathetic characters on both sides of a moral argument, allowing readers to form their own opinions on a controversial topic.

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky, a hypnotic, fable-esque novel, follows a woman convinced she has given birth to an owl-human hybrid. A powerful allegory about difference, disability, mental health and motherhood, it explores the complex cocktail of love, resentment, isolation and guilt often felt by parents whose children are not accepted by society, and the lengths they will go to in order to protect them.

Throughout All We Shall Know, author Donal Ryan delivers sucker punches that flip the reader's perspective on characters and situations. We follow teacher Melody Shee, a married 33-year-old who becomes pregnant by a 17-year-old student of hers. Through a new friendship, Melody attempts to find atonement for events in her past, with ensuing revelations heightening themes of love, betrayal, guilt and forgiveness.

Filed under Reading Lists

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Book Eaters. It originally ran in August 2022 and has been updated for the June 2023 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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