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reading tiger

Book Notes: Nine Months

(spoilers ahoy, I guess)

So apparently Paula Bomer is also fed up with the "and then I had a baby, the end!" narrative of pregnancy, because she's written a novel called Nine Months in which a very pregnant Brooklyn mom (her third pregnancy, accidental) takes off on a road trip and does all the things that pregnant middle-class white women aren't supposed to do while careening across the country and back.

At least, this is how the novel is packaged. In reality, the road trip doesn't start until halfway through the book. In reality, she smokes one cigarette. Has a couple cups of coffee. Has casual sex once. Never gets drunk. Rather hilariously masturbates with a hemorrhoid donut while driving and gets pulled over by a cop, and I find it very interesting that the moment that is in some ways the most transgressive is the one where she gets busted. Oh, and collapses in the snow in Wisconsin while visiting an ex-professor who is also her ex-lover.

And so I find myself longing to read the novel this one was packaged as but isn't, which seems unfair to Bomer's book, because I think it does break new ground and definitely articulates some, um, shall we say very familiar but unspoken sentiments about art and motherhood and contemporary middle-class parenting. And everybody but the main character has some weird orthorexic thing going on, which made me giggle. Homemade venison sausages and gluten-free quinoa bread, indeed. I believe this is the point where we say that Bomer is an excellent observer of contemporary cultural mores.

And I like that she did allow Sonia, said pregnant Brooklynite main character, to do things that weren't just thrillingly naughty but actually mean, small-minded, petty and/or just not smart. She hurts people. And not in a "unavoidable damage while FINDING MY SELF (on the road, like an American should!)" sort of way.

Oh yeah, and motherhood and art. Sonia's a painter, see. Or an ex-painter. Or a once-and-future painter. You decide.

It does end with her newborn baby safely ensconced in the back seat of a car, but "happily ever after" this is not. And also please note that she actually begins the novel with the successful birth, and then winds back to show us what led up to it. In other words, rather than "I achieved baby THE END" she structures the novel to say, "waitaminit, let me tell you what really happened."

So, I am not entirely sure that this is a great book (and I really want to know how she got out of the snow, but I have my too-literal moments too), but it's a good book, and I am really glad I read it. Bonus: I picked it up on a whim at 57th Street Books in Chicago while on my own nostalgia-tinged mini-road-trip through the Midwest. Life imitates art. Well, not exactly. And no, I'm not pregnant.