This month’s book club pick is State of Wonder by Ann Patchet. I’ve heard great things about all her work, so I’m eager to finish this one. I’m about 60 pages in and had to take a brief pause because…well, it gave me nightmares. What’s new right?
I decided before reading this book, I wouldn’t look at the inside blurb or research what the book was even about. I wanted to go into this as a complete surprise. But I did examine the cover closely, and at first glance, I thought the snakes were eyeglasses, but then upon further inspection, I thought the snakes and and circular embellishment had a slight…female reproduction…look to it. As in, are those fallopian tubes? Is that a mosquito coming out of a birth canal?
Well, 60 pages in there was a horrific scene involving a C-section birth, and hints to come of other unsettling fertility issues. I almost started laughing, because it seems like quite a few books we read at Book Club have page-turning birth scenes in them. And by page-turning, I don’t mean “turn the page to find out what happens next,” but rather, “turn 10 pages to get past this passage as fast as possible.”
So after finishing the first few chapters, I decided to look at the description and read some reviews. State of Wonder appears to be a female take on “Heart of Darkness,” where a woman scientist goes to the Amazon in search of a woman doctor researching in the heart of the jungle, and of course this doctor has cut all communication ties to the people paying for her expedition, and sent cryptic messages about the death of a colleague. Oooh, it sounds so good! I think I’ll continue, but I hope it’s a good page-turner and not a bad one.
In case you were in the market for literary fiction that dealt in some form with pregnancy and childbirth, here are a few that we’ve read in book club:
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell – In the first few pages there’s a complicated birth scene COMPLETE WITH A DIAGRAM OF WHAT WAS WRONG. It was horrible. I didn’t even finish. But not because of the birth scene, but because I thought it was soooooo boring.
- The Children of Men by PD James – I don’t recall anything graphic, but the book was about a world where no children were being born. I actually really liked this one.
- Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese – Holy Cow this one was a tough read for me. It was about a set of twin boys, whose mother was a Nun (Sister? Either way, it was taboo) and died during childbirth. They were raised by an Indian and Ethiopian, living in Ethiopia and New York, devoting their lives to medicine, specifically Obstetrics and Gynecology. Phew. It was a powerful story, but I think I could have done without it.
- The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – Nothing too graphic with this one, but lots of childbirth in a stark environment. This is one of those books that I think I love more and more the further I get away from having finished it.
- The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber – Even though I had a few issues with this book, I think overall I liked it. One thing that irked me was an impending sense of doom throughout, and considering the main character is nine months pregnant in this, I was on edge til the last page. I won’t spoil what happens. But there’s a reason it belongs in this category. Phew.