A mother approaching middle age struggles to fulfill her youthful ambitions in this debut novella.
Elizabeth left an unsatisfying and abusive marriage nearly eight years ago, and she finds herself on the cusp of another life-changing decision. Years into a mutually supportive relationship with the kind and steady Gabriel, with whom she raises her 9-year-old son, Elizabeth faces her 36th birthday with uncertainty, trepidation, and hunger for meaning and fulfillment. She’d harbored dreams of writing fiction since she was a child, and she can’t tell if her current existential itch means that she wants to give birth to another baby or a novel. Gabe is clear about his lack of desire for more children, which leaves Elizabeth feeling hurt, confused, and staggering under the weight of unfulfilled potential. When a writing-coach friend suggests that she start a blog, she takes the first tentative steps toward becoming her most complete self: “selfish, whiny, beautiful, grumpy, funny, a rotten mother, mother-of-the-year, flustered, depressed, a slob, antsy, flighty, crying, friends with a vibrator, a dreamer, a story teller.” In this novella about the anguished process of becoming an author, Bartasius creates a vividly relatable character who shares her first name, revealing the latter’s appealing contradictions and unquenchable desire to tell stories. Writers will immediately identify with such statements as “The guilt of not writing stagnated like a birdbath breeding mosquitoes,” and most mothers have viewed their role as Elizabeth does: “a dichotomy of loving my job as a parent and praying I could be ‘on break’ to write or travel or take a nap instead of making egg salad.” Occasionally, the imaginative metaphors are difficult to comprehend, as when the narrator worries, “I wasn’t sure I would survive the twisted spat of psychological winter,” and the presence of two unrelated characters named Jessica create slight confusion. But all in all, this is a riveting tale of maturing womanhood and an insightful peek into the creative process.
An intimate and captivating story of one woman’s rediscovery of herself.