This review requires a lot of backstory that isn’t directly related to the actual quality of the book, so bear with me.
Some facts pertinent to what I’m leading up to:
- My husband and I are Catholic adult converts.
- Our daughter took years and fertility treatments to conceive, and trying for kid #2 has not proven one bit easier. When I finally did get pregnant, I had a difficult pregnancy and good reason to think she might not make it. For the first time I connected with the concept of praying with the saints and asking for intercession, and developed a particular connection with Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, patroness of difficult pregnancies, mothers, and obstetricians. We wound up making Gianna our daughter’s middle name.
- We’ve barely gone to Mass for the past year. Part of it is our packed schedules, part of it is simple laziness, a huge part of it is that we’d just had a hard time with faith lately, each for our own reasons. The election cycle and all that came with it left both of us feeling a little weird about God and religion and wary of being associated with any of the rhetoric that was hurting so many of our loved ones so much.
- I have an elaborate, neurotic system for picking my next book. It prevents me from binge-reading Liane Moriarty and never getting anything more nourishing into my noggin. A random number generator decides which of my 459 book Goodreads to-read list is next and that’s that. Otherwise, I would not have picked this book up anytime soon, believe me.
- The night before I started the book, my husband and I had a long talk about our need to get our crap together with going to Mass and just our connection with God in general. A three hour long talk, actually.
- The afternoon before I started it, we had a long talk about our options for fertility treatments in terms of side effects, efficacy, cost, and adherence to church beliefs. Both of my siblings had babies this month and two of my main circle of four friends are pregnant. I would still be pregnant if I hadn’t miscarried over the summer. As usual, I’m struggling to conceive again. This has been a hard, hard, hard month for me on that front. We hadn’t talked about it much before, as far as emotions or future plans.
- Our library is pretty fastidious about getting bookmarks, receipts, notes, etc., out of books. I know this because our previous branch was not and it’s striking how rarely I find things in my books now.
- I thought this book was just a book of female saint profiles. I really did not want to read it. Again, it was randomly picked.
So that’s where we’re at. I’m an emotional wreck and a shitty Catholic and still hanging in the air are The Big Church Talk and The Big Fertility talk with my husband. I’m taking a bath and reading this stupid book. She’s talking about her career and I’m not 100% caring. I turn the page and find this post-it note (I stuck it in a framed print of Mary that my best friend gave me, it was just the Post-it note).
If you can’t read it, it says If you are reading this and are struggling with infertility, know that you are not alone and though I do not know your name, my prayers are with you. – God Bless You Always
I swear to you, my eyes just about fell out of my head. I burst into tears and called my husband into the bathroom to tell him we had to start going to Mass again. We did. I put the note in this frame in my hallway. It changed my life. I’ve never felt so profoundly that God cared about me personally and was looking out for me. It makes me weepy just writing this.
Turned out, the back half of the book did talk about infertility, and it wasn’t just a book of saint profiles, although it did cover about six pretty extensively – including my pal Gianna! I was so excited to see her name. Campbell does a great job weaving together her personal experiences and saint stuff, and although her life is nothing more revolutionary than one woman’s average trials and tribulations, it’s not a slog to get through. It’s a pretty nichey book, and honestly I doubt that a non-Catholic would get too much out of it, but I’d still recommend it. And not just because I’m sentimental about The Note.