Debut author Sokol offers a novel about one woman’s obsession with motherhood.
Lara Jennings James is a woman who knows what she wants. As a driven member of a public relations and marketing firm in Richmond, Virginia, Lara has devoted countless hours to her career and personal success. She and her husband, Will, seem to be the epitome of a happy, childless couple, taking trips abroad, attending an annual wine festival, and immersing themselves in their own interests. Everything seems fine—until Lara decides something is missing: “At thirty-nine years old, all Lara James wanted was a baby.” The fulfillment of her desire turns out to be much easier said than done. She has difficulties becoming pregnant, and her attempts to conceive turn costly, both financially and psychologically; she suffers miscarriages, and her contribution to the fertility industry is in excess of $250,000. And even though she projects an outward appearance of determination, she has lingering doubts: “Ambition had been her child for decades—fed, strengthened, followed. Could she both mother and succeed?” When Lara finally gets what she wants, will motherhood be all that she’d bargained for? Sokol doesn’t gloss over the details of Lara’s journey. Her first miscarriage’s aftermath, for instance, is described graphically: “Pubic hair, wet and gleaming, red and purple, clumped in curls. Between her legs was a crime scene.” The book does well at highlighting the protagonist’s hardest moments, though the overall story isn’t always a page-turner. First, the story pits Lara against her own body; then, it sets Lara against the difficulties of motherhood. The latter experience proves to be much more challenging, with endless crying, judgmental health professionals, and a great deal of attention paid to milk production. But readers know that it will end at some point—either Lara will come to terms with her situation or she won’t, but surely her infant won’t remain an infant forever. By the final pages, readers may be longing for the appearance of a toddler who can tell her distraught protagonist that it will all be over soon enough.
An often vivid portrait of a conflicted mother, although her struggle eventually becomes tedious.