Fertility doctors confront the lingering effects of personal and cultural emotional trauma.
Holly and Roger Thomas have a stable marriage, fulfilling careers, and a son practicing for his bar mitzvah. Holly insists on throwing a birthday party each year—complete with gifts—for their stillborn daughter, but Roger doesn’t complain. His Catholic brother and sister-in-law, however, find fault with Holly, primarily because she’s Jewish. Her religion haunts her, almost as much as the death of her daughter: “Had [Holly’s] father been a Bar Mitzvah? Or his father back in Germany? It bothered her suddenly, the not knowing.” Kemme (In Search of Sushi Tora, 2011) highlights her characters’ cultures and beliefs in order to explore themes of belonging, cultural assimilation, and self-acceptance. She also builds a diverse cast of secondary players—married couples (and one mother-daughter couple) who’ve signed onto the Thomases’ annual Fertility Tour across the British Isles, which aims to help couples communicate better. There’s Rachel and Leah, lesbians who are all too aware that other people see them as outsiders; Edgar and Neha, an Indian couple; George, a Jewish rapper, and his wife, Sheila; and Winn and Lillit, a couple with deep problems. Each of these couples has stretches of narration devoted to their marriages, but only some of them get nuanced character arcs. When Kemme does develop these secondary characters, though, their storylines are compelling; Edgar is shown to desire a child, for instance, because “Acceptance depended on assimilation….People with children might be accepted into the circles he wished to enter.” Yet the abundance of storylines results in a scattered narrative, and the time that Kemme devotes to these side characters distracts from Holly’s emotional catharsis. Still, the author often beautifully depicts Holly’s self-doubt as she explores different aspects of overcoming trauma.
An unfocused but positive tale of moving forward through unexpected circumstances.