That I enjoyed this book is directly related to it being set here in my city. I live in Washington, D.C., and I love every minute of it (go Caps?) and here this book fell in my lap and they talk about Mass Ave and Sidwell and Woodley Park and I almost fell for it. But aside from the location, this was not my kind of book. It was a slow book about people and their slow lives and set anywhere else it would have bored me to tears.
The book opens with a woman, Rebecca, our main character, in labor with her first child. She has the support system every young mother is told she should have – husband, family, money – but she still feels overwhelmed, like she’s drowning in the newness of it and she has no idea what to do. She bonds with a part-time lactation aid named Priscilla and, a few months after leaving the hospital, convinces her to come on fully time as a nanny to young Jacob. Rebecca is grateful for her help and her friendship, even if she doesn’t realize that the friendship is fairly superficial, more employer/employee than that of two equals. Two years later, though, Priscilla unexpectedly dies during her own childbirth and Rebecca makes a very fast decision – she will adopt the surviving newborn and raise him as her own son. Rebecca is white. Priscilla, and her child, are black.
I just feel like the book focused mostly on Rebecca. Admittedly, Rebecca focuses mostly on herself. Priscilla has an adult daughter, Cheryl, who becomes a part of Rebecca’s life and has to repeatedly over the years tell Rebecca that she isn’t listening. Because she isn’t. Rebecca sees herself as selfless because she has done this selfless thing, but that doesn’t mean she gets a permanent Good Person card that exempts her from societal norms. Her refusal to change or grow may have been what frustrated me the most about this book. It starts in the mid/late 1980s and finishes in 1999 and she’s still basically the exact same. The little boy she adopts, Andrew, is really only ever mentioned, and never engaged with. Her biological son, Jacob, obviously has issues stemming from the adoption that she refuses to acknowledge or deal with.
But the book did confirm for me that pregnancy and parenthood sound totally fucking awful and my childfree life is 100% the one for me, so there’s that.