Elevate Difference

The Baby Lottery

Kathryn Trueblood takes on the weighty issues of motherhood in the age of abortion in her first novel, The Baby Lottery. (Trueblood is also the author of a book of short stories, The Sperm Donor’s Daughter.) Her characters are a circle of friends who have stayed together from college into their thirties. One is preparing for an abortion and coping with an overbearing husband. One is a nurse working with abortion providers. Two have young children of their own. One, a single mother, is struggling to raise a drug-free teenager despite her and her friends’ history of (and in some cases, current) drug use. And one has lost thousands of dollars and a husband in a fruitless quest to conceive; she hopes to adopt her friend’s child before the imminent abortion.

The characters are fascinating, the situations realistic, and the supporting characters are all appropriately self-motivated and interesting. The problem? The method of storytelling.

Each chapter is written in third-person limited, with the lead character’s name as a subtitle. This scattershot of perspectives can be effective, but the author spends most of her narration talking about what each character thinks, how she feels and what she does - usually something solitary, like laundry, attempting to write a novel or washing up for a medical procedure. Easily half of the novel, and probably more, has a single character alone with her thoughts and tasks that feel like they exist simply to provide a venue for this introspection. The women think about their futures, their thoughts on abortion and motherhood, the role of feminism and their friends. The book feels full of quotes that a woman’s study program would love and indeed are beautiful and insightful, but the author tells her story through eavesdropping on thought. Nothing happens, but plenty is thought about: even a potentially dramatic trip to an abortion hospital is presented to the reader as a passing memory.

This author has a great mind for language and for stories, and I hope that she is able to combine them in her next novel to write a story that rises above this good but not great novel.

Written by: Janine Peterson Wonnacott, September 2nd 2007