Desperate for a baby, a husband and wife choose in vitro fertilization in Hercher’s debut novel.
For years, Bostonians John and Robin Hogan have tried in vain to conceive. Robin grieves each month as her period begins. The diagnosis is idiopathic infertility: “something was wrong, but no one knew what the hell it was.” Robin’s gay brother, Mickey, and his boyfriend, Caleb, provide them with loving and sometimes-humorous emotional support. John’s online business, Emoney, gets a lot of hits after a pricy Super Bowl ad and seems poised to take off. Hopeful that this signals a financially secure future, the Hogans consider in vitro fertilization, which is costly ($12,000 to $15,000) and risky for the mother. After Robin undergoes a series of injections, she produces eggs that become viable embryos; the unused ones are frozen and used by other couples. Meanwhile, the Hogans’ pregnancy struggle affects Mickey and Caleb, as they consider a deeper commitment—perhaps marriage—and they think about starting their own family using a surrogate. When Emoney fails, John is unemployed and dejected, and the family rapidly depletes its financial reserves; soon after John starts another Web-based venture, the Twin Towers fall. Meanwhile, Robin ponders the fate of the frozen embryos: Aren’t they her children, too? Hercher, an academic professional with a background in genetic counseling, delivers a strong, well-crafted novel which includes references to cutting-edge reproductive technology in passages that average readers will easily understand. She gently explores the ethics of IVF, probes vital questions on when human life begins and addresses religious beliefs without sermonizing. Robin’s emotionally harrowing and physically debilitating journey is utterly believable, as are the ensuing martial conflicts: Her focus is primarily on getting pregnant, while John’s focus is on her safety. The subplot involving Mickey and Caleb is particularly poignant as they face their own escalating relationship crisis, and the novel’s epilogue is a moving celebration of family.
A touching, intelligently plotted story of a couple’s struggle to have children.