In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
I was sent this book in exchange for my honest review. It seems lately that I’m reviewing more and more controversial books. lol
So, here goes…
The premise sounded absolutely fascinating to me. However, what I thought it would be and what I got were not exactly the same thing… which happens a lot when controversial topics are the subject matter. I believe that although the writing style tends to jump around a lot and can be a bit disjointed, I think the author is quite brilliant to bring to light many jaw-clenching topics in a fictional atmosphere. Before I go any further, I should state that I am a “Pro-Life” supporter. As a woman who found it difficult to conceive, I truly believe that once a pregnancy has occurred, it should run its course until birth. There are SO many women out there that would love to have a child and can’t. Adoption is the next best thing for some. I didn’t choose adoption myself, after Katie was born, even though I survived through six miscarriages to have another until my body demanded I give up. I felt by that time, we were too old.
It’s hard to explain why women do this or other things. I’m no expert in the field, however, this book does take a look at many of those aspects. Whether I agree with them or not, isn’t the issue. The fact that the author took this work on and mastered a voice to bring many controversial subjects faced in today’s society to light is interesting and enlightening. I found this book a fascinating read, despite my beliefs, and feel it’s one that all women should read. Sure there are feminists vibes, and male dominance vibes, but there has been a trend for both throughout history and probably will continue far in to the future. You have to take this book and read it like an outsider looking in at the viewpoints developed between its covers about a possibility that could come to light if we’re not careful. I respect the viewpoint as being the author’s, created in interesting POV’s of various fictional characters with a lot of non fiction attributes greatly influencing those views.
The author tends to be direct and crude sometimes, a style often resulting in cringing and shocking responses, but seriously, she’s not saying anything that we haven’t thought of, or heard at one point in our lives… Give her credit for being brave enough to put it to print. I suppose she could have flowered it up a bit with rainbows and daffodils, but in truth, it still comes out as cringing and shocking, so why beat around the, ummm, bush about it. Tell it like it is, my mother always told me. There’s definitely no candy-coating coverage involved in this book.
The four very different women depicted in this book live lives that interweave as many do in small towns. The topic of “Pro-life” is focused on through each of these women’s perspectives and how the passing of laws to protect unborn fetuses affects each one and their life decisions.
This is a perfect example of a book that shows what happens when women lose control over decision-making involving their own bodies. This is such a touchy subject, and personally, I feel the topic doesn’t just involve the woman’s body, but another life it carries… But let’s not go down THAT road…
Zumas uses cleverly written pieces placed throughout the book to take the reader on a reflective journey of our own society’s laws and choices when it comes to abortion and fertilization and women’s abilities to choose either under controlling laws and their consequences.
The complexity of the story was masterfully upheld throughout the book. Women’s rights have been such a huge topic in the media recently, especially with the current government in the USA. However, this book goes beyond the politics. It shows the impact of decisions made by politicians that shouldn’t be made. Motherhood, infertility, personal identity and control issues are also discussed. This book gives one very possible outlook that affects all these topics in a mirroring aspect of a fictional world very similar to our own. The lack of naming the main characters adds an interesting touch of impersonal categorization that women have faced throughout history, in particular, women being classified as “chattel” for years and having men controlling their lives completely.
The Biographer, The Wife, The Daughter, and The Mender — they could be any one of us. I felt that this was a wonderful character arc and plot ploy to add to a story, just to send home a subtle message highlighting the fact of how difficult it can be/has been for women to define themselves as individuals and human beings, people of importance too.
Going too far into the nameless women’s characters, would have countered any success this action achieved, and Zumas does this just right. I don’t think Zumas necessarily uses an “experimental writing” style, I just think she writes this way to remain neutral, and like she’s someone looking in on another’s life, similar to a biographer interviewing a candidate.
Some of the women I just didn’t “get.” That doesn’t mean that they weren’t fully fleshed out as far as Zumas dared. By doing what the author had, she created an empowering, strong piece of literature that many will discuss for a very long time.
I await the day when women can survive on their own without the financial help of a man’s support. As for reproduction… we are a species of two sexes for a reason. One cannot reproduce without the other… for now.
I give this book: