"Stretch marks decorated their bellies, thighs and hips like pretty, pale firebolts zigzagging against their dark skin" (58)."It overwhelmed her, the thought of it—Luka dating them. Both of them. All of them dating each other. It made her feel like she couldn't breathe, like she was flying so high in the sky she'd met the vastness of space; limited and infinite at the same time... When she'd first realised she loved Kian, she'd never thought she'd love anyone else the way she loved him. Down to her soul, she'd thought, this is it. This is the love everyone's been talking about. I finally get it. I finally understand.Now, here she was, doubled up on the very love people had sworn to her happened only once in a lifetime" (107-108)."It's natural, considering everything you've been through, to want to ruin something good when you finally have it... But your anxiety and your trauma are lying to you. They're telling you this good thing is surely too good to be true, that you should probably save yourself before you get hurt, using your previous history as apparent proof. But most times, oftentimes, they're just flat-out wrong... Sometimes, a good thing is simply a good thing." (255)."I know this is going to be difficult, but here's an assignment. For this weekend, and this weekend only, I want you to let yourself have this. Every gesture, every kiss, every intimate moment—put all of yourself into it. Give yourself permission to be happy, for just this one weekend. Pretend you're in a time capsule, if you must, and nothing of the past or the future matters. Just you, in precious moments with your partners. Can you do that for me?" (255).
And unfortunately for Frida, timing is not on her side. After the deaths of two children under their watch, Child Protective Services is now trying to cover its own behind by implementing new, extreme, yet mysterious policy changes that put an even crueler onus on parents (especially mothers) to prove that they don't deserve to be criminalized and permanently stripped of their parental rights, even for relatively minor missteps. It's like in the 80s when the US started militarizing the police force with war-standard gear and guns and tanks, except CPS is being militarized with technology. Frida submits to 10 weeks of violently invasive surveillance (cameras in her home, phone activity monitored), severely limited visits with Harriet that are supervised by the aforementioned hostile social worker, and interviews with a court-appointed psychologist. But this merely enables the cops, the CPS surveillance people, the social worker, and the psychologist to each use their findings against Frida, framing and interpreting her every behavior in the most unforgiving ways, in order to paint her as an irredeemably unfit mother. Based on these findings, the family court judge gives Frida the "choice" of attending a new year-long "rehabilitation" program that bad moms are currently being funneled into. If she succeeds at being fixed as a mother, she just might get her daughter back. (This is the titular School for Good Mothers, but in the book it has no specified name. I'll refer to it as TSFGM anyway.) Philly is hosting the pilot of this program, which will later expand nationwide. It begins in November, meaning that Frida and her hundreds of peers will miss Thanksgiving with their children along with all other holidays, birthdays, and milestones to come for the next year.
"On her bad day, she needed to get out of the house of her mind, trapped in the house of her body, trapped in the house where Harriet sat in her ExerSaucer with a dish of animal crackers. Gust used to explain the whole world that way: the mind as a house living in the house of the body, living in the house of a house, living in the larger house of the town, in the larger house of the state, in the houses of America and society and the universe. He said these houses fit inside one another like the Russian nesting dolls they bought for Harriet... she felt a sudden pleasure when she shut the door and got in the car that took her away from her mind and body and house and child... The pleasure of the drive propelled her. It wasn't the pleasure of sex or love or sunsets, but the pleasure of forgetting her body, her life" (13-14).
"If she ever tells Harriet about this place, she'll say that she had to store her devotion somewhere. Emmanuelle, a vessel for her hope and longing, the way people used to invest tablets and sacred trees with their faith and love" (184).
"When they reach the tree line, they begin howling. They're beginning to understand. Beginning to mourn. They sound like Lucretia on the day of her snow-angel disaster. Like the dolls on the day they were hit. The only word Frida can make out is no. She waits and listens then decides to join them... Many mothers screamed until they lost their voices. They held each other. Some knelt. Some prayed. Some bit their hands... A body could produce pure fear. Pure sound. Sound that eclipsed thought. Meryl screamed louder still.... felt something life from her as she howled, as if she were jumping out of her own skin" (291-92).