I read. A lot. It’s just something I do. I also do some writing, but today, I want to talk about the writing someone else has done.

There aren’t a lot of novels out there that include pregnancy/baby loss issues. And when they do, they’re usually in a historical context. Just off the top of my head, I can think of two (Anne Shirley Blythe’s first child dies less than a day after birth in Anne’s House of Dreams, and a character in the 18th century-based Slammerkin suffers both miscarriages and child loss). I’m sure there are more out there, but again, many of them are historical novels – or the loss is simply used as a plot device, so that the loss is not the center of the novel, merely an event to move the story forward. Memoirs of dealing with miscarriage and stillbirth have become more common, but fiction where loss is the main focus are hard to come by.

I’ve found three so far. All of them done by independent publishers, and all of them through Amazon’s Kindle service. Two of them were . . . not so good. I admit, even though I read like a maniac, I’m often critical of what I read. It’s what I was trained to do; it’s why I went to college. Plus, I’ve been writing my own stories since I was twelve and have been studying how to do it since I was sixteen; I know how a novel should be put together. I know how prose should sound, how it should move you. With two of these books, I didn’t feel much of anything. Nor did I think much of anything (aside from some not-so-nice things about how dull the writing was), which is something that, for me, is a must. I read books to think about what’s being written. I want to be introduced to new ideas, new concepts. If I question things, that’s okay! As long as I’m engaged and thinking.

So: Baby Dust, by Deanna Roy.

One note. Amazon has the subtitle of this book as: “A Novel about Miscarriage and Stillbirth.” The novelist’s website does not mention this, but I’ve seen it elsewhere as “A Novel about Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss.” This is important to me, because nobody in the novel actually has a stillbirth. Five women, five miscarriages (six, actually; one of them has had two). They are the attendants of a miscarriage support group, and the novel is about their pregnancies, how they lose their babies, and what happens after.

The best thing about this novel is the dynamics between these five ladies. The stories of their losses and how they survive them is the central issue, and Roy captures it phenomenally. Some scenes are not easy to read, but they’re all well-written. You really do get a good feel for these women and what they’re going through. Roy talked to a lot of women and included a lot of real-life experiences in the novel. She also explores some lesser-known miscarriage complications and causes: molar pregnancies and anencephaly (pic warning; not an easy sight). It’s a novel that hurts – but it also heals, which is just as important. It’s a novel that brings to light the darker side of pregnancy, the side people don’t want to see but sometimes have to face.

Now. Novels are not easy things to write. I know; I’ve got a few in the works myself. And though I really liked Baby Dust, there were a couple of things that threw me off a bit. Two events, in particular.

First. One of the main characters is a teenager who loses her baby around the 18th week. Her boyfriend leaves her, and she returns to her regular school, where she’s ostrasized. She decides to find another man and get pregnant again so she can re-enter a special teen-mother program. She tells the other ladies in the group this, and they say nothing to stop her. They do not tell her it’s a morally unsound idea, which it is: she plans to find some unassuming guy, get pregnant, and have him be present in the baby’s life. In order to do this, she lies about her age, joins a dating site, and proceeds to try to find a financially stable baby daddy.

This isn’t my problem with the story. Obviously, the plan backfires on her. But none of the other women call her on it. What I think it worse, though, is when a sixth woman comes into the group after losing her fourth child. Her husband doesn’t want more children. The leader of the support group dismisses her as a kook (she’s named her kids after Roosevelts and wants a fourth so she can name him “Franklin D”). The ladies tell her that maybe she should just give up and be happy with the children she has, that she can’t go behind her husband’s back and have more. After hearing about the original ladies’ stories (including one women who has five kids and plans on having more in the future), the new lady says, “So, I guess I’m the only one you say shouldn’t be trying again.” Not one of the women respond to that. Because four of them do plan on having more kids.

And the woman never appears in the novel again. That scene really made me uncomfortable, and it took me a while to realize why. Yes, this woman’s husband doesn’t want more kids, but her own reasons for wanting more were dismissed – as was she. Granted, this happens during a crisis point in the novel, where things should be dark. But at the end of the novel, with everything resolved, she is not shown as coming back and being accepted into the group. She’s never heard from again. And it seemed weird to me, especially after nobody said anything to the teenager who wanted to find some random stranger to father her next child.

Second. Actually, I’m going to save the second for tomorrow, because it’s connected to something else that often confuses me about pregnancy and babies: dealing with names. Also, this post has gone longer than I intended, and I’ve got at least another 500 words in me, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about tomorrow anyway. So!

Seriously, though, I really did enjoy Baby Dust, and I recommend it to anyone, not just those in the pregnancy/baby loss community. Roy has a good writing voice, and her characters are both real and likable. It might not be easy to find, but it’s definitely worth looking for.

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