Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

01 March 2008

Book Review - The Baby Lottery

The sex, lies and disappoint that evolves in The Baby Lottery [WCF, Powell's, Amazon] happen not just between lovers (although there are a handful) but between friends. Jean, Charlotte, Ginny, Tasi, and Nan are college best friends who find themselves many years older and reacting to Charlotte’s decision to have a second trimester abortion in very different ways. Jane reacts intensely and in a last ditch attempt to salvage their friendship and her dream of motherhood, offers to adopt Charlotte’s baby. Tasi accepts Charlotte despite her flaws and emotionally abusive marriage. Is it abusive to request an alcoholic to behave herself? Each friend has to accept or reject Charlotte’s decision and decide what that means to their collective friendship. If Jean and Charlotte do break-up where does this leave the others? I think each of us have been in the middle of a friendship divorce and having to decide whose friend you are now.

Throw in aging parents (one with Alzheimer’s), a teenager testing boundaries, career changes, a marriage on the brink of divorce, and a convenient lover who becomes less available. This novel makes you consider how much respect can you lose with your best friend before you can’t be a friend? When is choice not a choice? How far are you willing to push your pro-choice views? What would you do?
Kathryn Trueblood weaves a wonderful tale of angst between these long time friends. Her no nonsense and straight forward style of describing her characters' lives is amazing. In the opening scene we meet Nan, an OB/GYN nurse who discovers that her pregnant patient's fetus has died.

Nan sits with her awhile before applying the prostaglandin gel to her cervix to get labor started. Josie is a moon-faced girl with chipped teeth and her hair in a ponytail. "This is just tough and unfair," Nan says, "any way you look at it."...But its six hours of labor. The woman has a cervix like a Goodyear tire. Half a day to dilate a few centimeters, then booming contractions for the last two hours. ...At first,Josie refuses the Fentanyk Nan offers..."Listen," she tells her when she is sure she has Josie's attention, "no one is going to feel any differently about you if you take the pain meds. You're already having to be braver than the rest of us will ever be."

One of my favorite passages is where Trueblood describes Ginny's writing schedule before she separated from her husband:

..She'd come up with elaborate plans for getting her novel written, but she kept failing at her own program. Get up at five AM, or write until midnight...she always ended up facedown on the mattress in her sweat pants on Saturday night. One evening after teaching, she leaned her head back before turning the key in the ignition and passed out in the university parking lot.
I think a lot of us can relate to that scene. That's why I liked Trueblood's writing style, it is fresh and comforting even through difficult conversations.This is a welcome addition to the intelligent mommy lit genre.

Personal note: This book hit surprisingly close to home. I've had a bit of fertile guilt having gotten to know a few women who have "lost" in the baby lottery area where I got pregnant pretty easily. Sometimes it does feel selfish when I thank the Goddess each month for not being pregnant when others are praying for just the opposite.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the review copy of the book.

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