Ms. Conception by Jen Cumming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Abby is desperate to get pregnant. After several years of marriage (and trying to conceive), she and her husband, Jack, enter the roller coaster life of fertility clinics. Along the way, Abby is juggling a busy career, her slightly insane mother-in-law, and her own quirky mom and sister.
I tore through this book in two days, and I think my heart pounded through a good two thirds of it. Parts of it were almost too heart-breakingly painful to read. There are certainly some other recent novels (e.g. Amanda Eyre Ward's The Same Sky) that capture infertility in a more poetic manner, giving it more weight and tying more to the characters' backstories and current events. But Cumming's novel is like no other I've read in perfectly depicting the hard, emotional struggle of infertility.
There's so much I identified with in the novel, which certainly helped lead to my 4-star rating. I am not 100% sure that the book would resonate as much with those who haven't been through this, though I honestly wish I had had this book to give to all those "well-meaning" individuals who had "helpful" advice during my own infertility struggles, because I really do think it shows how hard the process is on a couple.
For instance, Cumming does an excellent job of showing how difficult it is for Abby to juggle her work and her infertility - there's a moment where she receives a call from the clinic about a negative pregnancy test and has to return to a meeting. I've so been there, and she wrote about the episode beautifully.
Cumming also does a good job of portraying humor in Abby's difficult journey - it's the only way Abby can survive. Her stories of the full bladder trials during IVF, for instance, are funny and spot on. So much, though, is serious and very carefully portrayed -- Abby's focus on a home project after each negative test; her studious avoidance of babies; dreaming nine months forward about potential holidays -- anyone who has struggled like Abby will identify. She captures the aching loss of Abby beautifully -- I actually hurt as I read this book.
Overall, I would have potentially liked to have seen a little more character development about Abby - you don't get much backstory about her yen for children. Still, the book is amazing in its ability to make you feel like Abby and hurt with each negative test and setback. It's the most accurate (yet compelling) fictional journey of infertility, IUIs, and IVF I've read in quite some time.
(Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.)
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