Carole Maso, an experimental novelist, brings all her imaginative gifts to bear on this fragmented but sparkling journal of her pregnancy and the first weeks after her daughter Rose's birth. Although she was over 40 when she decided to have a child, she and her partner Helen had prayed for one at the Church of St. Clare in Assisi, and in fact all across Tuscany and Umbria, as if the churches of Manhattan were further from God, or it was harder to hear prayer over the traffic. When the sign of a miracle arrives--in the form of a home pregnancy test--Maso is ready to meet it with words. Although she is a far more lyrical writer than Anne Lamott, there is a similar urge in them to tell the truth about themselves, even when it is less than flattering, and not to let a fear of sentimentality choke the expression of what are, after all, some of the most profound emotions a woman will ever feel.
Not for nothing does Maso quote the brave and ferocious Virginia Woolf several times in this volume. Moving between the "glow" of pregnancy--a sense that for the first time she is truly alive, and not just advancing toward death--and the fears and depression that her ruminations have brought on, Maso tracks the beginnings of another life, one that will be connected to her, through her body, until its own end. Any new mother of a literary bent will relish Maso's observations, from the tart to the sublime: "Doubt very much I am going to wear a scarf around my head during labor. The last thing I want is to look like David Foster Wallace, and, after the birth, "I'll start a baby book soon. For remembrance. Baby and book--the two most beautiful words in the language." She's forgotten the third, though: mother. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
In lush, elliptical language, Maso (The Art Lover, etc.) charts her first experience with pregnancy and new motherhood in a journal that reads like prose poetry, couching the mysterious experience in surprising forms, syntaxes and imagery. She records the unexpected sense of well-being and faith that accompany her pregnancy: "I've got to say I'm really quite pleased with myself. I am no longer someone I entirely recognize. A kind of wayward haloDleast likely to become an angel or a chaliceDand yet.... To be myself and yet to be so much greater than myself." She also chronicles the fatigue: "Cannot even imagine getting up. How to get to school?... Everything small as if seen from a great distance. The fierce attachments to this world begin to loosen." Maso also explores how, by age 42, she had accepted that she wouldn't have a child, until she and Helen, her partner of 20 years, traveled to Italy and prayed for a baby in a series of chapels and cathedrals. After nights of planned passion with men (alluded to coyly, without specifics), Maso gets her wish. Her father wonders how they all will manageDthe subtext is, "What will people think?" At Brown University, where she teaches creative writing, students notice a radical change in her. Helen, who wanted the child most of all, remains stoic and supportive throughout Maso's prenatal and postpartum vagaries, even though Maso at times leaves her out of the loop. Though Maso's wide-eyed descriptions of the miracles of pregnancy can seem self-indulgent, her dreamlike treatment of pregnancy, birth, mothering and writing should enchant mothers, mothers-to-be and writers with a poetic bent. (Dec.)
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