I finished reading another novel by Chris Bohjalian, Midwives. As I was reading it, I felt a connection to the woman who narrates the story. She is fourteen in 1981, six years younger than I. I kept thinking of activities I did in those months in 1981. The times spans from March of that year to the fall, end of September. I was a junior in nursing school then became a senior. David joined the Navy in May, with our plans to get married after I graduated. We were a year away from living in New England, where this story is set.
The girl is an only child of post hippie parents. Her mother lives a redolent hippie lifestyle as a midwife while her father gave up his beads for architecture practice. On the surface, a scenario far from my life. I am the youngest with older siblings who had flown the coop by the time I was nine. I felt like an only child sometimes, not in that negative aspect referred to on occasion.
I had a closeness with my parents bordering on an adult level. This story placed me back in those times of sharing. Dad's car accident and the many months in the hospital, I visited him with my mother. The girl has a crisis, also(why would there be a novel, if she hadn't?). Her mother is charged with involuntary manslaughter, after performing an emergency Cesarean on a woman she thought was dead. The question is, was the mother dead or did this operation kill her. A riveting tale that had me thinking to the end that I knew the outcome.
The story drew me in as the adult woman recalls this time of fierce love she had for her parents with a desire to preserve their family. I thought of how my parents slept with their bedroom door open. I always stopped in their room, sat on my mom's side of the bed, telling them about the evening I had, if I had gone out.
That summer of 1981, I climbed the stairs after I believe working at Jameson Hospital. My dad called out to me from the bedroom, "David called me this evening. He was wondering if it were OK to buy you a ring when you go out to California later this summer."
I held my breath.
"I told him that he had to ask you," my dad continued.
Much of our life reflected at the top of those stairs and in their bedroom. Mom, mostly the one awake, reading. Putting her book down as I entered the room, Dad would turn to face me as I plopped on the bed and they listened.
The woman in the book, also, sat with her mother through chemo much later in their lives. I thought how we sat with my mother through her cancer. We turned her because she couldn't wait for the staff to move her due to her pain. Years later, after Dad had died, I spent many hours in hospital rooms with my mother, never regretting a minute. I needed to be with her as much as she needed me there.
Even though my parents were different than these young parents, both sets shared a strong commitment and love. They cared deeply for their girl, as my parents cared for us all. Reading this opened my memories to closeness that I wish all parents had with their children. The children may not always do right. Drug use, heavy petting, alcohol are some vices mentioned in which the fourteen participated. I did some too, not at fourteen, though. The naturalness of wanting a boyfriend, being accepted by peers, with the strong desire to protect our parents and family mix in a teenager's emotions. I felt, in a way, I could have written this story, that it is my story of my life. I can see why Oprah picked it for her book club.