One-Minute Book Reviews

April 8, 2007

Women Talk About Their Miscarriages

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Essays and Reviews,Reading,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:44 pm

Twenty writers tell how it feels when a pregnancy ends

About What Was Lost: Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope. Edited by Jessica Berger Gross. Penguin/Plume, 288 pp., $15, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Collections of essays reflect the tastes of their editors, so you may find it helpful to know that Jessica Berger Gross calls herself “an organic-eating, yoga-teaching, Birkenstock-wearing granola girl.” When she miscarried after eight and a half weeks, she sobbed for days, partly because she had to put aside her dreams of “the short list of literary French names I’d choose from” and “the chic Santa Monica baby store where we’d shop.”

No doubt Gross makes herself sound shallower than she is, but her self-portrait tells you something about this collection of essays by women who miscarried between the sixth and twenty-third weeks of their pregnancies. About What Was Lost resists deep engagement with the theme described on its cover – that many women find “that instead of simply grieving for the end of a pregnancy, they are mourning the loss of a child.” Contributors to the book tend to focus on their feelings of pain and grief, and how they absorbed them, not on the complex social, medical and religious questions miscarriage can raise.

But most entries are well written, and some transcend the limits of the collection. Novelist Caroline Leavitt and poet Rachel Zucker offer trenchant and perceptive essays that deal in part with the rude comments that others made about their miscarriages. One of Leavitt’s friends cheered by giving her a handmade book of hypothetical replies to people who said things like, “At least you didn’t know the baby.” (“Yeah, and if I had, I know he would have hated you!”) Zucker heard another strain of false comfort – “these things happen for a reason” – that got on her nerves. She had to stop herself from making hostile comebacks such as, “Perhaps when the baby heard all the people around me using stupid, trite clichés like these things happen for a reason the baby thought life wasn’t worth living.” Other contributors, too, faced insensitivity, which suggests both why this collection was needed and a paradox: The people most likely to read this book are women who have miscarried, but the people who need it most may be their friends.

Best line: Rebecca Johnson, a contributing editor of Vogue, writes of a pregnancy that ended after six weeks: “One out of four pregnancies ends in miscarriage; this was simply nature’s way of saying ‘Not this one, not yet.’ As a fertility doctor whom I interviewed once said to me, ‘Nature is extraordinarily wasteful when it comes to reproduction. Look at all the acorns on the forest floor.’”

Worst line: The title About What Was Lost. The title conflicts with the theme: If miscarriage often feels more like “the loss of a child” than the end of pregnancy, why wasn’t this book called About Who Was Lost?

Editor: Danielle Friedman

Caveat lector: This review was based on the advance readers’ edition. Some material in the finished book may differ.

Furthermore: Other contributors include journalist Joyce Maynard, novelists Sylvia Brownrigg and Rochelle Jewel Shapiro and Pam Houston, author of the short story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness. Julianna Baggott’s entry takes the form of a dialogue with her husband, the token male in the book.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent literary site that covers books by all kinds of people “from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth,” as Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine might say. At least 50 percent of all reviews cover books by women, with reviews of books by female authors typically appearing on Monday and Wednesday and books by male authors on Tuesday and Thursday.

2 Comments »

  1. Good catch on the title. Odd choice of words – and, at the risk of appearing insensitive myself, maybe even a little Freudian.

    Comment by heehler — April 8, 2007 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

  2. Could be Freudian. It’s odd that with so many writers contributing to the book, nobody raised a strong enough objection to the title to persuade the people behind it to come up with another.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — April 9, 2007 @ 9:45 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers

%d bloggers like this: