A BETTER WOMAN by Susan Johnson
Kirkus Star


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From Australian novelist Johnson (Hungry Ghosts, p. 128, etc.), a beautifully written and remarkably wise look at the realities of becoming a mother, as well as at the unexpected physical consequences of giving birth.

Johnson transforms what could be a conventional motherhood-survival story into an often transcendent tale of how she “became a better woman” as her life was enriched and deepened by the experience of giving birth. Until she was 35, Johnson had lived as she pleased, writing and living where she liked. But as she drove through France, her “arms began to feel empty.” Though she had regarded children with ambivalence, she suddenly “wanted to feel the weight of life . . . to enmesh [her]self in the fabric of living.” Back in London, she married fellow Australian Les and in 1995, now 38 and pregnant, flew back to Australia, where their first son, Caspar, was born. Johnson vividly describes not only her fears about bearing a healthy baby as she raced to finish Hungry Ghosts, but also those extraordinary moments of maternal exultation: seeing in a face an entire universe; the poignant awareness of the “sweet, short time [when] the past and future do not exist . . . and not one single promise has gone unfulfilled”; and the conviction that nothing in her life, not even writing a novel, has made her feel as competent. Other typical but less exalted moments include trying to breastfeed, get enough sleep, write, and deal with her lack of money. She also developed a fistula in the rectal-vaginal area, which, after her second son was born 16 months later in a botched delivery, required surgery and a temporary colostomy so that her body could heal.

A distinguished memoir: one of those rare insights into motherhood that describes the magical and the mundane with equal insight and honesty.

Pub Date: April 9th, 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-3296-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2002


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