Heather Marshall’s first novel reads like the work of a more experienced author. She delivers a compelling book on an important issue that has become increasingly contentious. In these pages, through her characters, Ms. Marshall humanizes the tricky topic of women’s reproductive rights and (sometimes lack of) choices.
Readers get to know a number of characters in several timelines over the course of the novel. Stories converge in ways that feel just right.
Main characters in the novel include those below:
Evelyn become pregnant only to have her fiance die; she wanted her baby but had no support. What happens to each of them? Watch what Evelyn does with her life.
Evelyn becomes good friends with Maggie. They help one another to get through some painful experiences. How will Maggie’s life relate to those of other characters?
Clara faced a life and death situation when she found herself pregnant. How will she cope with the choice that she made?
How does Nancy’s life fit into that of other women in the book? What big secret was kept from her daughter and what will happen when it is known?
And what about Angela? How will an old letter impact her and at least one other woman?
This is a story of all that can happen when a woman faces a pregnancy. I think that is why the author chose to have so many characters. The story is told with compassion and a bit of righteous anger.
The scandals around homes for unwed mothers that are described here echo the Magdalen Laundries of Ireland. It is painful to recall that young women in need of compassion were unable to find this during the time period of the story. It was also impossibly difficult for those who chose an abortion during the same time. They knew that the risks were high and that they could die. Imagine the fear. Medical professionals who chose to help others through an underground network knew that the risks were also great for them as those women Looking for Jane found them.
This book offers a wide point of view. There are women who become pregnant when they are not ready, there are those who are unable to have children or are struggling with infertility, those impacted by adoption, and the young women who are influenced by the decisions that their mother made. There are no judgments about any of them, just an open and caring attitude.
This is a moving novel that reads quickly even as it deals with big topics. I highly recommend ti. Be sure to read the author’s own thoughts on her book.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for this title. All opinions are my own.
Pub date: 07 February 2023
From the Publisher
“Clever and satisfying . . . [Looking for Jane] has the potential to remain pertinent for generations.”
—The Associated Press
“Marshall vividly brings to life the dangers involved with operating Jane… a page-turner… readers will be moved by the courage and thoughtfulness with which these characters face their dilemmas.”
“Marshall makes an absorbing debut with a timely novel about the complexities of pregnancy and motherhood… [a] deftly braided narrative, Marshall keeps the tension high as she reveals the devastating consequences of denying women autonomy over their bodies. A charged topic handled with sensitivity and compassion.”
“This timely novel about motherhood and choices is a must for all fiction collections.”
—Library Journal (starred review)