Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner

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“This life,” Cal said. “You have to give up a lot, I have family who won’t see me. It’s hard. It’s not for everyone.”

In the beginning, it is older sister  Jo “tall and gangly and everything she did was wrong” and little sister Bethie ” chubbie and cute” a child who “always said exactly the right thing” that complete the makeup of the Kaufman family.  Where Jo is closer to her father, Bethie is Mommie’s perfect darling, a child who doesn’t behave in the unnatural manner her older ‘tom boy’ sister Jo does. It is 1950’s Detroit and their new home is surrounded by families just like them, “birds of a feather” all perfectly flocking together in rhythm and God forbid you are “different.” No one tests their mother more than Josette, who doesn’t mean to be so difficult and really cannot explain why things that come easy to others is so hard for her. She can’t help but be herself, even when she tries to be the good girl her mother desires, catastrophe follows and boy does her mother make sure she knows just how much she fails to be the daughter she wants.

It isn’t only within her family that her nature brushes against societal norms. Friendships with other girls mean more than they should, her wants and desires for her future are thwarted by the times Jo lives in, and will chip away at her dreams of freedom. An athlete, a writer, liberal minded coming of age in a conservative world will whip her into an acceptable shape. Through betrayal of those she loves most, and of course responsibility to her little sister and impossible to please mother, Jo (like countless women before her) will forget herself in order to fit in. Marriage, children… she is finally a good girl, right? The world isn’t ready to accept a woman like her, to let her live freely. It’s not safe to be her true self.

Bethie’s beauty should make her world a tasty confection and guarantee her most fevered dreams come true. Her mother knows she’s meant to be something special one day!  A girl who everyone loves immediately, the perfect lil’ helper, people pleaser, someone whose very nature charms everyone in her orbit, why… what could possibly derail her future? Sometimes, a girl with so much appeal attracts nothing but danger, through no fault of her own. Bethie learns nothing stays sweet in an ugly world, and before long becomes the subversive daughter that Jo once was, refusing to settle in one place nor with a man. There is so much to taste in the forbidden elsewhere! If Josette wants to spend her life being content, tied to convention… well bully for her. No one is going to tame Bethie. Let Jo pretend!

This is a book about women, their options, the opportunities and lack thereof. The shaming when a daughter, mother, sister dares to look beyond the plans other’s have made for her. The disapproval she will encounter when she strikes out on her own, against the will of her mother/father or husband. The ever looming threat of losing your family if you chose anything for yourself that isn’t ‘approved’. The lessening that is expected when one becomes a wife, mother. Before long, you’ve lost yourself. Too it is about the abuse that girls welcome (according to the world, at least) or have to accept for the sake of survival.

The sisters who once had to support each other drift apart, each denying themselves their true natures. Life happens, it brutalizes and punishes in unequal measure. From an early loss both find themselves sacrificing their dreams and even innocence. It is a story about sisterhood, motherhood and in a sense, self-hood and how every choice or the transgressions of others, and the demands the world puts on us makes us who we are, for better or worse. The question is, can we come back to the self we once buried in order to be accepted?

What is more heartbreaking than thinking about the deaths we suffer, internally, of our many selves? The times Josette and Bethie came of age in were full of strife and civil unrest. Children who questioned their parents ways, be it a mild irritation such as why the fuss of dressing like some cookie cutter family, or the heavy, senseless, shameful weight of their parents racism weren’t exactly the ideal child. Children didn’t question the ways of the adult world, period. Step out of line, and you will be tarred and feathered. You were not free to love where you wanted, with so many constraints, this is why free love (social, sexual movement) was born. Many people bucked convention. Yet children eventually want to please, to have their mother/father’s love, sadly at the expense of their real selves. Other little boys and girls, they get too much unwanted love from some adults. It’s hard to write about this novel without giving away everything that happens, but it truly is a novel full of heartbreak and hope. When it’s your turn to be a parent, despite promising yourself you will do better than your mother/father, you can bet a child will introduce you to your weaker self. Life happens, and comes full circle and at heart it is a tale of two sisters that find their way back to each other.

Publication Date: June 11, 2019  Out Tomorrow!

Atria Books

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White Dancing Elephants: Stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

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She’s probably my age, I realize suddenly, early forties, but she has not spent her life on mistakes.

This collection of stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar is about more than being an immigrant or one’s ethnicity, it is also about feminism and LBGTQ women. From the start, the reader is on an emotional journey, living as long as it takes to read a story on the character’s breath. It begins with White Dancing Elephants, where a woman shares the aftermath of her miscarriage, gut wrenching and mind numbing, a trauma to think of what could have been, should have been. “Before my last morning with you, my love, I didn’t know rage.” Loss is a rage, a dead future. The writing doesn’t lessen in intensity, in The Story of the Woman Who Fell in Love With Death, there is a different sort of longing, a young boy relates a fictional tale with the loss of his own sister, the girl whom is never mentioned, and lives in the hidden photograph in his father’s sock drawer. Is she really a runaway, just what are the family’s dirty secrets? There is a line in the story that must express how many boys/men feel “Girls expected him to prove to them what boys were like: shallow, callous, laughing animals that could smell irresistible.” That in a book full of stories to make the unseen world of the female life visible, living particularly in the skin of women of color, in such an ugly world full of abuse and slurs, the author too was able to expose a vulnerability in a young male really touched me. Someone who wanted to be a boy good enough to rescue his own sister, heart wrenching! The body, how the female body is her own fault for every horror the world can think up to torture. It’s always her fault, isn’t it? How brutal and true the final line in the story (I won’t share it here, read it). I had a lump in my throat, thinking of what it means to be female in our world, thinking about my own daughter.

There are affairs and betrayals, fissures in friendship,illness, stories of sexual abuse, even if it’s just hinted at. Denial of one’s sexuality for the sake of family tradition, even if it means returning to India and ‘putting oneself in the ground’, burying oneself, rejecting our genuine identity and love for what’s expected. One of my favorites is Asha in Allston, and the ‘mannequin with hardware’ who definitely isn’t a HER! The horror in feeling jealous of perfection while trapped in a real failing human body, robbed of every future dream. I think I related in the sense that though there is no MALIN in my life, we women have a form of perfection in our face 24/7, and when illness enters… well… it’s that much more evident, of course in the story she lives with the ‘ideal female’ thanks to her husband’s job and genius. Tormented by the uselessness of her own body, impossible not to compare herself to this non-entity! Rage to turns to flame!

It’s an engaging provocative collection, the stories aren’t all about women as victims either. Sometimes they do selfish things, we’re imperfect creatures, as much as men, we just have to pay more for being human. As said in the life you save isn’t your own, “wrong decisions had all bloomed like seeds”. It got me to thinking about how much control we have, about decisions and chance how we often go against our own desires to please others, and about how much heavier choices are for females. Worse, about all the little girls in the world robbed of any choices at all, the orphan handler was pretty intense, dark.

A new voice in fiction, yes read her debut!

WINNER, DZANC BOOKS SHORT STORY COLLECTION PRIZE
WINNER, NARRATIVE MAGAZINE “TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK” FOR 2017

Finalist for the 2019 PEN American Robert Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection

Published October 2018

Dzanc Books

 

A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova, translated by Barbara Heldt

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Madame Valitskaia had decided that Cecily must become Dmitry’s wife so that she would not somehow become the wife of Prince Victor, and she was proceeding toward her goal.

Karolina Pavlova was a Russian poet and translator born in 1807, who had left Russia due to “hostile criticism of her poetry and her personal life”, can you imagine? It lends meaning to the character Cecily, living a passive existence as others arrange her entire future. What else created a life for a woman, particularly of the privileged class, than who she married? Her best friend Olga’s mother is a schemer, she wants to push Cecily in the direction of one Dmitry Ivanchinsky so that Prince Victor is free to marry her girl. Olga is prettier, but Cecily has her own charm and that’s a threat. Olga isn’t much better, she wants the Prince for herself but we are told she isn’t quite as skilled as her mother in deception, instead relies on her mother for ‘directions’. Ha!

Cecily is often described as pale, needing rest as she has been ill. I wonder if the illness in part is an ailment more of the soul. The novel is titled Double Life, where in her dreams her true desires take flight, the writing beautiful poetry.  Is it because the ‘claims of the earth’ on some psychological level take a toll on her body, it is said a woman’s body rejects that which it doesn’t desire. So we get these ailments, headaches, fatigue… Upon waking, all around her is smiles and flattery, all her nearest and dearest convincing her to fall in love with Dmitry. It is done so convincingly, a perfect dance of charlatans, that even his poverty is romanticized by Cecily! Poverty as a more noble choice? This from a young woman given everything, looking down from great heights of society that the happenstance of birth has placed her and thinking how impossible it is to imagine poverty so terrible one cannot even afford to order a beautiful dress. You poor little fool!

Women as pawns, that’s all I could think of the time and place. Sacrificial lambs, because once the excitement of this new life wears off and the celebrations fall by the wayside the truth will be revealed by a long life with an unworthy spouse. We know throughout the tale she has nothing to compare this with, so sheltered her world, reliant on her mother “The first obligation of a mother,” remarked Madame Valitskaia. “We should always be able to read into the souls of our daughters, in order to foresee any harmful influences and keep them safe in their childlike innocence.” Kept in a bubble of ignorant bliss, and afterwards once settled and fooled, it’s too late.

Pale, headaches due to her nights of restless sleep, there lives within her poetry like a song that has been circling her head and at the end she whispers the words and Olga after asking her what she is saying responds “What nonsense”, but she is really going forth as if sentenced, which speaks volumes about what Pavlova felt about such marriages, such lives for women.  On some level, Cecily is aware of walking the plank, so to speak. She smiles along with the fools by day, playing her part in this quiet tragedy and is only truly alive in her night escapes. Very much a young woman of the times, what choice than to go along with those who are older, wiser, and love her so? They all want what’s best, right? What else is there for her, anyway?

Fascinating literary fiction, a 19th Century Russian classic by a female author that is far heavier than it seems. Do take the time to read the afterword and the introduction.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Columbia University Press

Roar: Thirty Stories One Roar by Cecelia Ahern

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Even when practically invisible, she was still fighting to be seen.

There is a  story a woman of any age can relate to in this collection, whether you feel like your age or situation is making you fade to nothing, or you’re struggling with time slipping through your fingers, your most precious moments are running away from you and all you want is to eat them up and live in them. A woman returns her husband, she just has no use for him anymore, ‘Paddy wasn’t defective, he wasn’t faulty’, she had just ‘grown out of love‘ but then what happens if he is put back up for sale?

What happens when a woman walks in her husband’s shoes? She learns that men carry themselves differently, not always walking through the world as freely as she imagined. They too have expectations due to their sex, as much as women, but the best part of the story is when she runs into another man, Bob, who has his own surprise. “Our world is the same but it’s not.” Another story is about a woman who, due to a birth defect, wears her heart on her sleeve. It gives her away, her emotional state, beating loudly when her face tries to mask her feelings.

The Woman Who Wore Pink is quite interesting, as Gender Police make sure you don’t overstep your identity as male or female. It’s a damning and frustrating exploration on gender roles, how dare a woman hold open a door, that’s a ‘man’s duty.’ This story in particular reminded me of something I could easily see in the show Black Mirror. There was an eerie feeling that washed over me, all of the ‘supposed to be’ of it. There is no doubt there are unspoken rules regarding gender roles in modern-day life, and maybe there aren’t gender police, and sure you don’t get penalized or fined for doing something considered masculine/feminine (for the most part), say the type of food you eat or the color you wear but there are ‘rules’ aren’t there? I think about how a boy wearing a pink shirt when I was a kid in school would have certainly been an invitation for bullying. It’s a color… a color! The author is saying a lot in this story, and it’s my favorite.

I can’t think of a woman who can’t identify with The Woman Who Spoke Woman. Women need a translator in order for the men ‘in power’ to understand them. The men in charge demand  women who are ‘man-speaking’ and don’t ‘harp on about women’s issues.’ Sound familiar ladies? The Woman Who Guarded Gonads is a loud message, how different the world would be if men had to fight women’s ‘opinions’ about choices regarding their bodies, as we are forced to do. It comes off as preposterous, doesn’t it, and yet it’s a reality for women. I wonder what a man’s take on this short story would be, I welcome their thoughts.

The collection is a fast read but has bite, and of course the stories are meant to engage the reader to question the culture we live in relating to gender issues. Women are so hard on themselves, but so is the world. There is surrealism, as in The Woman Who Unraveled, meant to invoke deeper meaning. Visibly unraveling would likely be easier, because then maybe others would notice and one could take the time they needed to ‘feel whole again.’ Of course, our struggles are invisible in the real world, and we keep a face on, truck along, usually at the detriment of ourselves, and others. It’s not lost on me that I am dealing with a health issue and in doing my research about other women who go through what I will be soon, confess they didn’t slow down enough, nor have support enough to recover from their surgery because of the load they carry as a mother/wife. Unraveling indeed, women don’t listen to their bodies enough, and what a sad world it is when they don’t have the support they need.

Yes, read it. It’s strange but the author is playing with very serious feminist issues, to make it easier to confront she engages the reader with magical realism.

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Grand Central Publishing

 

Look How Happy I’m Making You: Stories by Polly Rosenwaike

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A woman’s body was suppsed to know exactly what to do.

In Polly Rosenwaike’s debut collection of stories, women are confronting more than just motherhood. There are relationship struggles, bodies that are failing to behave as nature intended, and conflicting emotions within their own minds. Growing up girls are rarely privy to the reality of pregnancy and childbirth. It isn’t like all those movies where an unexpected pregnancy is a happy blessing, or the moment you try for a baby its immediate succes, the men are all adoring, the mother to be is glowing and when the time comes the couple has supportive family, friends, money and boom her body is back to its pre-pregnancy shape. Of course the baby and mother bond instantly, there isn’t any struggle breast-feeding, absolutely no sign of postpartum depression!

The reality is, there is jealousy particularly when you can’t get pregnant and all around you everyone else seems fruitful. Some women wait for a partner to arrive and realize they are stuck in a constant state of expecting, better maybe to have a child alone, for another her child’s birth represents the cycle of life and death as her beloved aunt is dying, a moment of joy tangled in grief. Pregnancies themselves aren’t one size fits all, for some months are spent consumed by illness, stress, pain. Some women get desperate and lie, their desire to grasp at their last chance to have a child before their biological clock turns everything off. Maybe forcing a man who is too young, who hasn’t chosen to be a father, through deceit. That sometimes, dishonesty feels like the only way to get what you want.Then there is the depths of postpartum depression, because expectant mothers never truly think it will happen to them. Your emotions turning you against your own nature, a dual person who can love and then feel resentment towards the baby, repulsed with breast-feeding, exhausted, visualizing doing terrible things to your child. Oh no, you would never! Courting thoughts of your own demise…all the panic within’. This is just one window to look through at the characters within.

A woman  psychologist is a ‘curator’ of babies laughter, but one infant’s silence is a tragedy that forces her to face her own cowardice. A childless couple (by choice, in agreement) find a shift in their desires when the husband changes his mind, because men can feel the tick of a daddy clock too. The manuals will tell you a lot, but not everything. There is so much advice about pregnancy, parenthood in books, from friends, doctors, family, strangers and online, and still yet it might not speak to your situation. Parenthood makes you hate and love your partner, it can seal your bond or break it. A woman may dream of being a mother her whole life, idealizing motherhood but when the moment comes may feel like an absolute failure. Another woman may become a mother on accident, with reluctance and fall head over heels, discover she was born for it, a natural! Others may decide to go it alone, or to never have a child at all. The kingdom of parenting never truly runs smoothly. It is a land dominated by disruption, illness, surprise attacks as much as celebration and love. Our bodies through pregnancy are the same, they can be foe or friend. Our thoughts can betray us just as much as those we love, and that bundle of joy along with our hormones can wreak havoc too, reminding mothers “Look How Happy I’m Making You”. Yes, read it! There has been quite a bit of fiction recently delving into the territory of motherhood and I champion it! We need to explore every crevice of what can go wrong (or even just feel wrong) as much as the good. When a woman is struggling, it shouldn’t be a desert period with no one to help. It’s good to know that it isn’t all teddy bear picnics, that women just like you struggle sometimes. There really isn’t a solid ‘supposed to’ in pregnancy, parenthood. It isn’t ‘one size fits all’. What pressure to be told what you should feel, how you’re meant to engage as if each baby is quiet, peaceful. Some babies come into this world squalling and how can you not resent the smugness of mothers whose little sweatpea sleeps like an angel bragging about their special bond. I wish I could have read such fiction when I was a young mother. This will be out in the new year!

Publication Date: March 19, 2019

Doubleday Books

 

We Were Mothers: A Novel by Katie Sise

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Mothers took their children’s behavior so personally, and Sarah thought it was a waste of energy, because when you’re a mother you have zero control, and having a child is a tremendous act of optimism bordering on magical thinking. It was the biggest chance you could ever take.

It appears for the women in this novel, the second biggest, most dangerous chance they can take is on love. I don’t say that in the light-hearted ‘love is adventure’ way either. There are quite a few characters to keep track of, none of them seem happy with their love lives. Cora spends her time lusting over Jeremy, feeling ashamed for not being a better wife, for not yearning for her husband Sam more often. Jade can barely stomach Jeremy’s touch. There has been devastating loss, with the death of Maggie (daughter, sister, lover) years ago that no one has truly been able to get past. More painful still to her family was how she died, her own stupid fault as the drunk driver in the car accident that killed her the night of her sister Cora and Sam’s engagement party. Sam survived (Cora’s husband) and so did Jeremy, her friend who were both in the car.  The wedding went on, Cora and Sam had twins George and Lucy and tried to make happy memories from the grief that remained. Everything seemed straight forward, Maggie made an irrecerseable stupid mistake, and it cost Maggie her life. Despite the facts, so much regret and shame reamins to share since that night, still so many secrets untouched that years will never be enough to bury. In deep sorrow, relationships formed, marriages happened, life moved along, children were born. Jeremy is married to Jade now, once very close to Maggie (devastated for deeper reasons after her passing) trying for a child, Jade barely feels a lick of attraction for him these days. As she struggles with the emotions she’s tried to close off, Jade fakes it hoping she can get through every moment of intimacy between them, shocking as he is very good-looking, charming and successful. She has her own secrets concerning her relationship with Maggie. Six years passing hasn’t made life without her any easier.

Children need babysitters, and Mira is a beautiful young woman, daughter of Dash and Laurel. What happens, though, when Cora discovers her journal describing a passionate encounter with Sam, her husband? Worse, what if that isn’t his biggest secret? How can she ever trust him again? Should she? Laurel is frightened when Mira turns up missing, and of course Sam is suspect. Worse, Laurel is dealing with her own marital problems with Dash’s increasingly aggressive behavior. His daughters, Mira and Anna, with the intense drama and confusion they cause bring his spiraling madness to head. Out comes the monster that Laurel has been cowering from, but is it too late to finally stand up for herself, her girls?  To Sarah, who still grieves the death of her girl Maggie, Laurel seems pompous, with her ‘professionally blown out’ perfect hair. Disgusted by the ‘blame mothering’ as much as the one-upmanship game of women like Sarah, too she has to contend with her husband’s ‘not so new now’ wife. A friend once, of sorts, now by the side of the man she was meant to end her days beside. Then when they had a chance to try again, the shocking devastation of Maggie’s drunk driving accident. The panic attacks may have stopped, but there isn’t a day she doesn’t think of her girl until what she thought of as fact comes to light as a big lie. She will do anything, right or wrong, to keep her family safe, she can’t lose another daughter, she won’t!

This story is sometimes all over the place but it isn’t bad. The men aren’t worth a damn, sadly. Narcissistic, violent, criminal, selfish but good-looking. Is good looking a quality? No? Some of the characters worked for me, I liked Jade but would have preferred a little more meat to her and Maggie’s past. Jeremy I could take or leave, he was sort of just there. Sam, well he’s a real nightmare isn’t he? Dash goes from calm to hurricane at the snap of a finger, which is the point when dealing with abuse. Mira is naive, a bit stupid but that’s youth sometimes. Laurel is the perfect example of women who put on a persona to hide the destructive lives they suffer behind closed doors. I don’t think there could be a sadder bunch of women in one story, nor men who will do nothing but turn you off men in general. I think there are some characters that could be worked on, but it was a decent story. You think it’s going to be the typical young girl, affair, murder… it isn’t. The mystery is buried in Maggie.

Available Now

Little A

 

 

A Spark of Light: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

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“What about the mother’s right?”

The pro-life, pro-choice debate is older than me, and has been widely tackled it seems, by every living person who has an opinion, most especially politicians. It’s a topic every woman has confronted, or will, at some point in their lives. If you can’t handle the conversation, this book is not for you. Moving along…. A gunman, George Goodard, has taken hostages at a woman’s clinic where abortions are performed. He is hellbent on exacting revenge for what was taken from his daughter, despite the fact she herself doesn’t quite realize the scope of what she’s done yet. That’s his feeling anyway, and this is about his feelings! Behind the doors of the clinic are characters present for a myriad of reasons. George is too deep in it already, too late to turn back now, he must make an example! Do you blame the medical staff, punish the women who chose to terminate, what about the others (young and old) there for birth control or routine reasons? Do your beliefs have a right to bleed into the decisions of others? What if a mother’s life is at risk, is it okay then to terminate? What if it’s a young girl, say your daughter, a victim of rape? Should she be forced to carry said child? Take it further, what if it’s a case of incest? We don’t like to ponder these things, but imagine you are that 12 year old girl, and you don’t have the luxury of hypotheticals, are you moved to accept an abortion is justifiable now?  There is a flip side too, after all we’ve each been born, no one aborted us, and because we weren’t terminated we can chew on this loaded topic. Adamant that we have a voice, we can shout our points of view while defending the right to silence future voices. Each side can be debated endlessly, though I think about the dangers of laws putting restrictions our bodies. Education is key, there are medical reasons for abortion, which generally seems to be more accepted or ‘justifiable’. Desperate women (mind you this includes very young girls) will go to any lengths to end pregnancy and if there isn’t a doctor willing to safely care for them, we know what can happen. Mention this and you’ll often hear, ‘well then they deserve it, just proof isn’t it, that they are reaping what the sow’. Nothing I am saying here is new nor hasn’t been said before and heatedly, I mention it because of the character in this novel, Doctor Louie. Dr. Louie, though a practicing Catholic,  went into this controversial work because sending women elsewhere for help with such issues, he learned early on that ‘14 percent of doctors performed abortions themselves’  leading to women searching for other means, often unsafe abortions. As a doctor that, in and of itself, is a moral conundrum. Where do you place your religious beliefs when you know not acting can cost someone their lives? Must we lose both mother and child to incompetence, refuse help from a moral high ground that goes against his oath as a doctor?

Does he deserve a bullet from George’s gun? Does anyone? Is there not hypocrisy in being willing to kill when you are defending your position that others don’t kill unborn children? It’s a loop, we were all born, we were all once unborn. What about the pregnant women that have not yet had abortions, or may not be there for one? What if there are health risks to the mother, does she get a reprieve? Or must both she and the unborn child die to earn respect? It’s easy to think in black and white when you don’t have to know the full story, when you don’t humanize those you disagree with and that seems to be the theme. Jodi Picoult certainly shares the legal dilemmas here, and obviously feels passionately about the right for a woman to have choices. There isn’t an answer that fits each person perfectly. Take poverty, what if you can’t afford a child should you still have the baby? This is often met with the old ‘there’s always adoption’, which is true but that isn’t an easy decision either. You will often hear the retort ‘well, if you can’t afford it, why are you getting pregnant?” People always have the answer for the way others should live. Tackle this subject in any room and there will be heated debates in no time.

Picoult uses Hugh (the hostage negotiator) and his daughter Wren as well as his sister Bex (hostages)  to make the story deeply personal. A stellar single father, the three of them separately think about their bond and how lucky they are. Wren never regretting that it’s her father who stepped up to parent, while her mother makes ‘appearances’ and Hugh, whose daughter is his ‘universe ‘ unable to contemplate life without her, nor what lies in the delicate balance. He cannot fail. Is she there for an abortion? If so, can he relate to George’s fury?  It doesn’t matter, the stakes are far higher than he could ever have imagined. Bex is terrified, feels it is punishment for ‘going behind Hugh’s back’ to help Wren, it cannot end like this, even if by some twist she feels she deserves it. Hugh would never recover if he lost his daughter, and what of Wren and all the first moments she’ll never have?

Janine believes in the ‘sanctity of life’, does that maybe give her leeway, make George see her as on his ‘side.’ Olive is a retired professor, hoping just to survive this ordeal while chewing on ideas, hoping they can come together with a plan and tries to keep her wits. Izzy is a nurse, who knows what is means to grow up with nothing, who can ‘smell freedom’ but choses to do what is right for the others. A tough upbringing has made her resourceful, hopefully it’s enough to survive this, to help the others. Wouldn’t it just figure if she never gets the chance to be all in with her beloved Parker, to stop feeling inferior to his upbringing, wouldn’t it just figure if it all ended here, like this?

The characters weren’t that difficult to keep separate, each has their stories, emotional states coming into the clinic. All react differently because of who they are. Some are pro-life, some pro-choice. One exchange between Dr. Louie and Izzy says a lot about this issue. She says Louie may be the biggest feminist she has ever met, he claims to love all women, Izzy questioning him with her eyes on Janine sprawled on the floor he tells her ” And you should too”  because ” like it or not you’re in this fight together.” It’s a big response, in this fight for their lives as hostages, as much as a fight as women, for ownership of our bodies,  how the laws can change our freedom to decide for ourselves what’s right. But first, we have to find out if they will survive George.

Imagine book club night after reading this novel. It’s good, I have other books by Picoult I prefer but A Spark of Life is going to be widely read and discussed. It will be a different experience for every reader, and while it may be a woman’s issue, there is no reason why men shouldn’t take part.

Publication date: October 2, 2018  Out Tomorrow

Random House

Ballantine