I originally came across this book during a visit to the library. As usual, I picked it up, read the back cover and thought “hmmm this could be an interesting book”. I ended up putting it back on the shelf because I had picked up some other seemingly interesting books. A couple of months later on another visit to the library, this book popped into view again. Thinking it was fate for me to read this book, I checked it out before I could change my mind again!
What The Book Is About
This book follows the mid-life story of Sheila Traventi who decides to abort a pregnancy after prenatal testing turns up that her child would have Turner Syndrome. This book explores what I think is postpartum psychosis after the loss of her daughter which prompts her to steal the dead baby from the hospital and escape to the streets of Toronto. With her primary focus of running away from her non-understanding husband and just spending some time with the daughter she chose not to have, Sheila meets some of the city’s street people where she tries to find refuge. After she returns home from her short stint on the streets, her past catches up with her when she is revisited by one of the people she got to know while being on the streets.
This book was based in Toronto so it was neat to be able to picture the areas that the author referred to and helped make the book more engaging for me. I think that the potential of the book could have been more powerful had it not been self-published. There were spelling errors and I found some of the content irrelevant to the development of the story. The book explores themes such as abortion, infidelity, postpartum, and prenatal genetic testing to name a few – all buzz worthy topics that could make for a stellar book but I feel the execution of exploring the themes fell short for me.
The timeframe within which this book is set is one where genetic testing was quite new to the scene. Sheila’s doctor suggests that her daughter tested positive for Turner Syndrome (a chromosomal condition that occurs in females which result in them being shorter than average and possess the inability to conceive children). Sheila’s doctor suggested that this would be sufficient reasoning to abort the pregnancy. You can tell that Sheila was 100% convinced that she wanted to abort but with the limited availability of knowledge like we have today, Sheila is forced to rely on her doctor’s recommendation to make her decision. Although this story is fictional, it’s heartbreaking to think how many women would have actually made decisions like this based on such little information.
This story explores the loss of a child and the terrible psychological effects it can have on a mother. While Sheila’s daughter wasn’t brought to term, she was far along in her pregnancy where she had to give birth the same way she would have if her child were alive. It takes a strong woman to be able to do that – go through delivery with no recognizable outcome apart from the guilt associated with aborting a child. I truly felt for Sheila here because I think after the birth is when it really strikes her that she may not have made the right decision to abort the pregnancy.
While Sheila was living on the streets, she came across a variety of different characters. I have to admit, there were times where I got a bit lost as I didn’t feel like the interactions and stories had very much impact to her life or situation. I thought this would have been an opportune moment for the author to perhaps pick 2 or 3 people Sheila met and allow the reader to dive deeper into understanding their lives before living on the streets and how they eventually ended up there. There was one character where I felt this was done but the other characters didn’t develop as much.
Overall, I wouldn’t say stay away from this book but just felt that perhaps my expectations were set too high based on the back cover.