I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book. It is set to be released March 19, 2019.
Whether or not you enjoy Polly Rosenwaike’s collection of short stories will likely hinge on your interest in motherhood. Each of the twelve stories in this collection centres around motherhood in some way or another, mostly pregnancy and the early days of parenting. Some characters deal with an unexpected pregnancy. Some deal with miscarriage. One woman deals with infertility at the same time that she watches her sister become easily pregnant. Another woman researches baby laughter and receives news that her best friend’s baby has died. There are longterm marriages, new relationships, relationships already over. There’s a real gamut here but what links the stories together (aside from the fact of motherhood) is that this is hard.
Pregnancy is hard, whether you planned it or not, whether you’re with the right man or not. Not being pregnant can be even harder. The early days of newborn life are hard. The change that comes with every relationship around you is hard. This is neatly highlighted in Welcome to Your Family which features two sets of in-laws gathering around a couple who’ve just had a baby. We get little glimpses into each character – how they relate to each other and how they react to this new addition in their extended family.
I appreciate this nuanced and well-rounded look at motherhood. I especially appreciate its unflinching look at infertility and miscarriage. The prosaicness of it – how a character needs to go out and buy pads as she bleeds but isn’t sure how to tell her husband – and the isolation of it. I appreciated Rosenwaike’s portrayal of how overwhelming and yet monotonous the early days of having a newborn are. With simple descriptions she demonstrates just how completely life changes after a baby is born.
On the flip side, I finished the collection feeling that Rosenwaike featured the hardships of motherhood too heavily. The stories that featured newborns seemed to have mothers who were worn down and detached. Not a single one seemed overwhelmed but also in love with her baby. None of the parents seemed particularly excited about their babies or attached to them. I think, in her effort to portray the less beautiful and glamorous moments, Rosenwaike leaned too heavily to the other side.
If you’re already a parent, reading this story collection will probably have you nodding along, thinking, Yes, someone else has experienced this. But if you don’t have children, these stories are not going to sell you on them. Which, to be fair, is not their job or their desire, I’m sure. It’s a lot to ask that twelve short stories demonstrate the complete experience of one of the most life-changing experiences a human can have and Rosenwaike does an excellent job at shining a light in some of motherhood’s darker corners.