The latest novel from Canadian author Betty Jane Hegerat, Delivery is a story about the bonds that attach mother, daughter, and granddaughter. It’s about the stark choices that women have to make when facing an unanticipated pregnancy and an abrupt mid-life transition. It’s also a story about women learning what really matters to them.
The novel is written from the point of view of Lynn, a woman in her mid-forties, and of Heather, Lynn’s twenty-year-old daughter. At the center of the story is Beegee, Heather’s new baby whom she had planned to place for adoption. The story begins after Heather has brought Beegee home from the hospital, against the advice of the social worker. Heather has been caring for Beegee for two weeks and it now seems possible that she wants to keep her baby. Making what seems to be an almost spur-of-the-moment decision, Heather tells Lynn she’s decided on adoption after all. She instructs Lynn to deliver Beegee to the eagerly awaiting adoptive parents, but Lynn, who carries her own burdensome secret about an unplanned pregnancy many years before, cannot bring herself to complete this errand. Instead, she loads Beegee into a laundry basket, puts her in her car, and bolts.
Driving from Calgary to a small island off Canada’s west coast, Lynn makes for the cabin owned by her ex-husband’s friend, Einar. This is the place where she and her family used to spend their vacations. It’s also a place that she dislikes for its sunless forest, constant rain, and the memories of her failed marriage it evokes. Over the course of the novel, we’re introduced to Jack (Lynn’s former husband who left her two years previously for a younger woman), Marty (Lynn’s son and Heather’s brother), and Einar (who carries a torch for Lynn). We also meet the compelling Hannah, Einar’s neighbor and the mother of an ever-expanding brood of children, with whom Lynn forms a surprising bond.
Hegerat writes with fine and dazzling precision, a keen attention to language, and provides a beautiful rendering of both Lynn and Heather’s interior voices. She shifts easily from present to past and back to present, managing to show how the weight of previous experiences flicker into consciousness to inform and shape the current moments of her characters’ lives. She manages to give us real and very ordinary female characters who nevertheless shimmer on the page.
Delivery might be described “a quiet novel” in that the action is relatively small and domestic; it builds slowly and steadily to a final revelatory moment. Yet the novel maintains momentum because Hegerat makes us understand and care deeply about the people she writes about. We want to know what happens to Lynn, Heather, and Beegee. We also understand that the decisions they make will have repercussions far beyond the few days contained within the confines of the story that Hegerat tells. A finely crafted novel with great emotional depth and resonance, Delivery is an immensely satisfying read.