WINDFALLS by Jean Hegland


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A vivid, lightly fictionalized Motherhood 101 as two women, worlds apart, find common ground in facing the challenges of child-raising.

The two women—Anna, a noted photographer married to Eliot, a fellow academic; and Cerise, a single mother and high-school drop-out—neatly reflect current anxieties about parenting in this story that’s yet more about plight than plot. In graduate school, Anna had an abortion, and she’s still troubled—and has never told Eliot about it. Her daughter, Lucy, was an easy baby and a delight, and life was good. Then Eliot failed to get tenure and, now, they have to leave their farmhouse home and move to urban California. There, in an unfamiliar hospital, Anna gives birth to Ellen. The second birth is difficult. Ellen spends time in intensive care, and Anna, tired and depressed, later finds it hard to work at her photography. She’s also lonely, and the once easygoing Lucy is now nervous and troubled by nightmares, especially about a local little girl who has disappeared. Good day care is hard to find, too, and expensive. Cerise is even worse off; she got pregnant in high school, dropped out to raise daughter Melody, and has worked as a cleaning woman for a nursing home. She didn’t mind while Melody was young and still happy to spend her time with Mom. But now an adolescent, Melody is critical, has odd friends, is drinking and having sex. Cerise finds some consolation in an affair that produces baby Travis, but, though he’s adorable, she needs to work when her welfare payments end. Shortly after, Melody runs off with her friends, Travis dies in a fire, Cerise loses everything and must move into a shelter—in the same town where Anna now lives. The two meet when Anna is checking out day care for her daughters, and they’re briefly able to help each other move on.

Deftly rendered portraits of two “poster Moms” of today.

Pub Date: April 20th, 2004
ISBN: 0-7434-7007-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2004