‘100 Days’ by Alice Pung

A story of mothers and daughters, rebellious sixteen year-old Karuna falls pregnant to a nineteen year-old she barely knows. It wasn’t planned – but then there was little attempt to prevent it. It’s all about her mother as Karuna battles for some kind of independence. Beloved dad walked out years ago, leaving Karuna’s Filipino mother to fend for herself and daughter, forced to move into a two bedroomed housing-commission flat.

At times fierce and intense but full of humour, 100 Days walks the thin line between love and control as mom dismisses virtually all contemporary medical care in favour of traditional ways and superstitions passed down through the matriarchal bloodlines. Only those legally required are reluctantly agreed to as Karuna is locked away in the flat to keep her safe – and prevent her getting into more trouble.

It’s a battle of wills as the over-protective mother takes on two jobs to help pay their way – a once self-employed beautician must now work for another in a local hair salon before seeing the nights out as a waitress in the near-by Chinese restaurant. A sense of control over her own life (and that of her future child) becomes the battleground when Karuna realises mother intends to raise the baby as her child so that the young mother can go back to school and get on with her own life.

It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions as the two women lock horns with only the occasional interjection from the outside as Karuna’s pregnancy inches towards completion. One hundred days. It’s no time at all, she tells me. But she’s not the one waiting states Karuna, the part-time narrator as she writes for her child.

Warm yet incisive, 100 Days is brimming with love and rebellion as the mother supports her daughter in the only way she knows, even if neither Karuna nor the authorities always appreciate or agree.

Shortlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Award, Alice Pung and her 100 Days lost out to Bodies of Light by Jennifer Downs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.