Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Turtle Hope

The Ladies in Waiting Book Club had me do a book review of a new memoir, Turtle Hope. This week my review was published. I was worried about the negative things I needed to write, but I remembered the "compliment sandwich" and was very pleased to have the author comment on my review, answering the questions I raised.

My review:

Published by: 2 Moon Press, 2011
Memoir topics: Fertility, IVF

Increased by wind, the pages turn quickly, unfolding one by one.

So begins Turtle Hope by Jennifer Brown. It is a five-year journey of a young marriage, made all the more fragile by job stresses, finances, relocation and fertility treatment.

The powerful thing about this book, the most important thing about this book, is that so much of what she went through internally, so much of what experienced emotionally, was so familiar. It was as if she had climbed into my head and took my own thoughts.
I still have hope. On some days I feel like there is no hope. I’ll never experience childbirth, or breastfeeding, or unconditional love. But somehow I muster up a lil’ hope. It builds until I start to bleed again. I psych myself out every frickin’ month. It hurts. I’ve prayed. I’ve begged. I’ve acted like I don’t care. I’ve tried “not thinking about it” or “relaxing.” I get angry. I’ve tried it all and still no baby.

She writes about the series of emotions we’ve all gone through – jealousy, bargaining, anger, fear, indifference, shutting down – as we figure out how to deal with this unfair hand we’ve been dealt. And she captures it so universally.

While it is her journey and her story, her husband is going through this with her. She even admits on the back cover that her husband “was not the supportive loving partner I thought I had married.” And she’s right. He was not supportive. Other than really great sex at the beginning of their relationship, I found nothing endearing about him. She offers no reason why she is married to him. Plain and simple, she paints him as an ass. And I, as if I were her best friend or sister , need to hear more about the good stuff, too, because long after she has forgiven him for reminding her that this wasn’t his problem anymore, I did not forgive him. I was disturbed, wondering why she would stay with him.

I was also left wanting more. Some of the stories she tells feel unresolved. The neighbor with cancer she had a falling out with. The night of the thunderstorm/hurricane. The half marathon. These things are never spoken about again. I was left to wonder when these stories would come full circle and reappear in the book. And when they didn’t, I wondered what the point was?

There are things – little things – that are distracting in the book. The author’s name is Jennifer, so why in the book is she referred to as Jessica? Why does she sign her journal entries JPW and yet her name is Jennifer Brown?

And I think most unsatisfying of all, the “About the Author” page appears at the front of the book. You know before you even read page 1 that she and her husband have two children. And yet, she doesn’t end the book with their births, she ends it with a miscarriage. It was so disappointing to know the ending and not get it.

The book is not without its merit, however. I cannot stress enough how powerful it was to read her thoughts, her private journal entries, and know that I wasn’t alone in thinking everyone in the world was pregnant except me. It was haunting to read the words “my infertility had left me broken,” knowing that I have felt that very same thing. There truly is an unspoken bond among women who go through this.

We, the infertile, find alternative ways to celebrate motherhood and as sisters we must know that we are united by a deep breath and the power to overcome.

To read the review with the author's comments:
Book Review: Turtle Hope by Jennifer Brown

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