"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #19: A non-fiction book
First off, it's good that books like this exist. Infertility and pregnancy loss are incredibly common, yet they are "silent" epidemics that often leave those living with them feeling isolated and broken. Wyndham is a good writer, and the book is told in a present-tense, chronological way that makes it all feel very immediate and real. She includes details about all the little things you do to pass the time or to retain hope or stave off depression while dealing with complications on the road to creating a family. In some places the detail felt like TOO much, especially when she described her pregnancy losses. While I'm sure that level of detail was cathartic to Wyndham, I wonder if it is helpful or triggering/stressful for women who have experienced pregnancy loss to read. One thing that cannot be denied: Wyndham definitely captures how traumatic pregnancy loss is.
Yet despite the level of detail Wyndham went into in some instances -- the video games she played when she was depressed, the food she ate in the clinic after her D&C -- there are so many other places where detail is so lacking that Wyndham's infertility journey seems to take place in a vacuum. Although she mentions work, attending conferences, and "working remotely," she never discloses what she actually DOES. Her husband seems to be a journalist of some sort, which is only obliquely mentioned more than halfway through the book. This couple seems to have no friends, and while parents are mentioned, they are only distant ideas and potential phone calls. That is to say, reading this feels more like reading a diary than reading a memoir. When someone writes a diary, she doesn't think about what the reader will or won't understand -- she writes about the details that seem important in that moment. A memoir calls for more "world-building" than that, to allow the reader to fully understand the author's circumstances and life. The world in which Wyndham faced her fertility crises seemed to exist in isolation from everything else in life. In some instances, she even obscures parts of her infertility story -- she calls the baby she lost at 6 months "Baby T," but she never explains where that name came from. Also, the ending is pretty abrupt, which is somewhat offset by the fact that the prologue basically lets us know how things turn out.
I try not to comment too much on personality in memoir, but Wyndham's tone does come across sometimes as off-putting in how cantankerous she is. She is dealing with some tough stuff in which her high levels of negativity are TOTALLY justified in most cases -- but negativity seems to be her default setting even when things are less bad; I have received some of the treatments/tried some of the methods she writes about and they are not nearly as bad/as big a deal as she makes them sound.
Although there were a few gaffs (she mostly referred to her husband as J, but a few times his full name, Jonathon, sneaked in), as self-published books go this is far better than most. Not only is Wyndham a good writer, but she seems to be (or hired) a competent editor as well -- aside from the naming issue, this book is not riddled with distracting misspellings, errant punctuation marks or crappy formatting. In short, it is eminently readable, and intimate, accessible and relevant enough that I wanted to keep reading despite a few of my qualms. It's a worthwhile read both for those looking for some commiseration who have experienced pregnancy loss and/or infertility and for those who want to understand the issue better from a personal perspective.