> Skip to content

A provocative novel about the desire and duty to procreate, from the author of the critically acclaimed How Should A Person Be?

A provocative novel about the desire and duty to procreate, from the author of the critically acclaimed How Should A Person Be?
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.


This inquiry into the modern woman’s moral, social and psychological relationship to procreation is an illumination, a provocation, and a response - finally - to the new norms of femininity, formulated from the deepest reaches of female intellectual authority. It is unlike anything else I’ve read. Sheila Heti has broken new ground, both in her maturity as an artist and in the possibilities of the female discourse itself.

Rachel Cusk

Earthy and philosophical and essential . . . Motherhood floats, as did Heti’s excellent novel How Should a Person Be?, somewhere between fiction and nonfiction. It reads like an inspired monologue . . . Heti’s semi-fiction, like that of writers like Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk and Teju Cole, among others, is dismantling our notions of what a novel should be . . . She deals out her ideas in no-nonsense form, as if she were pulling espresso shots . . . This book is endlessly quotable, and a perfect review would be nothing but quotations. She makes a banquet of her objections to parenthood. If you are an underliner, as I am, your pen may go dry . . . Indeed, Heti always seems to be drawing from a paranormally deep well . . . Funny . . . Cannily employed.

Dwight Garner, The New York Times

I’ve never seen anyone write about the relationship between childlessness, writing, and mother’s sadnesses the way Sheila Heti does. I know Motherhood is going to mean a lot to many different people - fully as much so as if it was a human that Sheila gave birth to - though in a different and in fact incommensurate way. That’s just one of many paradoxes that are not shied away from in this courageous, necessary, visionary book.

Elif Batuman

I read this novel more quickly and eagerly than any I've read in ages. Sheila Heti's simple, elegant sentences invariably give pleasure; her thinking is incisive and wholly original as she grapples with the kind of unhappiness that many of us, myself included, prefer to distract ourselves from rather than look at squarely. Reading Motherhood forced me to become a little more honest with myself.

Adelle Waldman

An emotionally complex novel about motherhood that isn't about children. An intricately constructed book based on games of chance. This feels new.

Jenny Offill

In Motherhood, Heti takes on her most controversial and private debate yet - whether or not to have a child. A brilliant, radical, and moving book, it is sure to cause the cultural riot her earlier work has . . . There’s a new quality to Heti’s writing in Motherhood. The only way I can describe it is tenderness . . . Beautiful . . . Surprising.

Claudia Dey, The Paris Review

Sheila Heti’s book seems likely to become the defining literary work on the subject, perhaps most of all because as a novel, replete with ambiguity and contradiction, it refuses to define anything, and certainly not the childlessness that provides its subject or the motherhood that provides its title.

Lara Feigel, Guardian

With each of her novels, Sheila Heti invents a new novel form. Motherhood is a riveting story of love and fate, a powerful inspiration to reflect, and a subtle depiction of the lives of contemporary women and men, by an exceptional artist in the prime of her powers. Motherhood constitutes its own genre within the many-faceted novel of ideas. Heti is like no one else.

Mark Greif

Reading this beautiful novel, I felt I was watching a brilliant mind invent new tools for thinking. Sheila Heti wrings revelation from the act of asking, again and again, in ever more challenging and innovative ways, impossible questions of existence. Motherhood is a thrilling, very funny, and almost unbearably moving book.

Garth Greenwell

Illuminating . . . Intimate . . . Poignant.

Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

[Motherhood] embed[s] deeply philosophical questions into casual and familiar language… It is about the paralysis a person might feel when given the freedom to create, whether babies, books or oneself.

Jo Lo Dico, Evening Standard

Probing, psychologically unafraid, witty... With its mix of autofiction and philosophy, Motherhood is no manifesto but an essential — and often exasperating — exploration of uncertainty and of the art that can be created from it.

Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

Motherhood confronts the philosophical questions raised by childbearing and womanhood... Heti continues the project of How Should a Person Be? in at least one way: by opening out seemingly individual experiences into a general inquiry about ways of being...as concerned with art as it is with mothering... Heti’s narrator wants to create - specifically, to create something that will honour the memory of her mother and grandmother… Motherhood both documents that desire and fulfils it.

Sally Rooney, London Review of Books

I think of Motherhood as a beautiful, natural, living thing - a rare tree in the car-filled parking lot of literature, offering aesthetic and sustainable pleasures while also bristling with multiple, helpful, compassionate functions in the world. The high stakes, complexity, intensity, playfulness, seriousness, and inter-dimensionality of Motherhood's synthesis of art and life, of the imagination and the universe, makes me excited about both life and literature. I recommend reading and rereading Motherhood.

Tao Lin

Engrossing . . . Motherhood joins How Should a Person Be? and Women in Clothes to form what might be read as a field guide to womanhood in a particular literary-bohemian milieu . . . Motherhood, in this book, exists most of all as a force that shapes women’s lives and their relationships with one another. Heti approaches the subject with an observer’s curiosity more than a deliberate agenda . . . Motherhood foils my abilities as a critic: I like the book as a catalyst for thought, and admire its ability to withstand sustained consideration.

Molly Fischer, New York Magazine

Motherhood is subtitled A Novel, though it's one in which the boundaries between fiction and memoir are porous and constantly shifting… Heti is experimenting with literary form even as she wrestles with the form her adult life should take

Stephanie Merritt, Guardian

Motherhood is a poetic, innovative book. It is groundbreaking in its fluidity, in its recognition of the unrecognizability of desire, and in its scrutiny of expectation… she introduces a critical, exhilarating freedom.

Rebecca Watson, Spectator

Motherhood is an amazing book and the perfect successor to How Should A Person Be?. If How Should A Person Be? is for your twenties then Motherhood is for your thirties when you have to make that decision. She’s a woman, so it’s about female experience, but really every person has to make that decision – whether they want to be a parent.

Chris Kraus, AnOther Magazine

Here it finally is. A book for all of you who are considering having a baby, who had a baby, who didn’t have a baby, who didn’t want a baby, who don’t know what they want but the clock is ticking anyway. This topic is finally tackled as if it were the most important decision in your life. Because, um. How lucky are we that one of our foremost thinkers took this upon herself, for years, in real time, wrestling every day and living to tell. So fucking ready to live in the world this book will help make. Read and discuss, discuss, discuss.

Miranda July

Motherhood is a fiercely intelligent and probing read that delves deep into the fundamentals of procreating, motherhood and what it means to be a woman in today’s world... not only an important novel about a fundamental question that women ask of themselves but a pass to live more in their minds, in their imaginations, in those fertile spaces from which great works grow.

Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

Motherhood is self-examination elevated to an art form… beautifully written and profound.

Lucy McLuckie, The Scotsman

[A] hypnotic, unrelenting, 282-page grapple with the question of whether or not to have a child.

Alice Jones

A book that looks at the larger question of motherhood and how it affects our femininity.

U Magazine

Motherhood is a gesture towards honesty, bringing much that was dark into light. The book makes it more possible to think the decision, but also to dream, embody and feel it.

Niki Seth-Smith, OpenDemocracy

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    May 15, 2018

    Harvill Secker

    304 pages

    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    May 1, 2018

    Vintage Digital

    304 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

Also by Sheila Heti