In Erwin’s debut novel, a young woman’s life is complicated by an unexpected pregnancy.
“How can I be driving to an abortion clinic?” bewildered 27-year-old Annie Cameron asks herself on the road, alone, to an Atlanta clinic. “Nine weeks ago I was driving to a fertility clinic.” She and her husband, Dan, who works for the FBI, have been trying without success to have a baby, making Annie’s emotional conflict as she approaches the clinic all the more agonizing. Erwin takes readers inside Annie’s thoughts and doubts, forestalling the arrival at the clinic with a series of prolonged flashbacks to a spirited party thrown by she and Dan. The drinks flowed freely at the party, and Annie and Dan seemed to have fun mingling with friends and former high school buddies. Several of those buddies, now married and settled down, expressed leering approval of Annie’s good looks, and as she snaps out of her reverie upon reaching the clinic, she steels herself to go through with her decision, even though she hasn’t told Dan. Once she’s inside the clinic and confronted by its well-meaning staff—no characters in Erwin’s novel are cheaply demonized—and the reality of her situation, she finally rebels against her decision. “My brain is burned to a crisp with thinking,” she tells the doctor. “It was thinking that brought me here. It didn’t work. This is wrong.” In the stress of the moment, she reveals to the clinic’s head nurse—whose faith-and-begorrah Hollywood-Irish speech patterns are one of the book’s only missteps—that she was raped by one of those leering former high school buddies. Flashbacks take readers to the wrenching, angering moment. Annie’s decision to keep her baby is the moral fulcrum for the rest of the novel, and the repercussions spread out through a plot that feels natural and unforced in its portrayal of human fallibility. Erwin’s book is relentlessly honest and emotional, and Annie is a flawed but fascinating creation.
A rewarding, thoughtful novel about a couple in complicated turmoil.