Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Windfalls

Windfalls: A Novel Windfalls: A Novel by Jean Hegland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book started out quite slowly, I came to appreciate its quiet prose and subtle depiction of the strains and blessings of motherhood.

Hegland takes two separate young women who each become pregnant and follows their lives as they take separate journeys.

One, Anna, has an abortion, but never tells anyone. The decision, and the process, is not treated lightly. Hegland portrays the deep anxiety and pain that go along with this decision. In Anna's case, this decision follows her for the rest of her life, into her life as an artist, wife, and mother.

Cerise is persuaded by a couple at a crisis pregnancy center to carry her child to term. They promise her help in raising the child, but of course this is an empty promise. Cerise's life is extremely difficult as she struggles to raise her child--and eventually two--completely on her own without any safety net or support.

Hegland deftly describes the difficulties in making a choice to have a child or not to have a child and the gray areas in the abortion and teen pregnancy issues.

My only quibble with the book is that I felt that Cerise was easier to relate to. It was difficult to understand why Anna closed herself off so easily to other people--what was her childhood like that led her to refrain from confiding in anyone when she got pregnant? Why couldn't she even tell her husband about her abortion? She seemed tormented by her art--or what she felt was her lack of art--and I couldn't quite understand why this was so. Was it all because of the abortion and the loss? What about the life she had created for herself with her family? Even when she was living in her grandparents' house, she wasn't really happy.

The book also covers issues of homelessness and helplessness for women who have no support systems. The central differences between Anna and Cerise were socioeconomic class and education. Anna had choices that Cerise never really had.

***SPOILER ALERT***
This book is not for the faint-hearted. Anyone who has difficulty reading about the death of a child should stay away. I include this in my review because I often wish that I had been warned of this in a book or movie. In the end, I found this to be a very sad story, but a beautiful one nevertheless.


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