What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
During Baby Bingo, one of the guests en route to the bathroom mistakenly opened the door to the nursery and soon the entire party was gathered at its threshold, faces agog, silent, and I saw myself as they did: a woman stocking up for a baby I’d never have. For the first time, I realized, as they did, as Warren had tried to convince me—I wasn’t ever going to have a baby. I just wasn’t.
One of the most devastating realities that a woman can face, has come to life in this novel. Ross’ story lays out the perfect husband and wife, right before your eyes—with one imperfection, the inability to conceive a child. Several marriages fail because both individuals thrive for what they don’t have—failure becomes a manifestation with the power of crippling the mind and tipping the hormonal balance. This story is gripping, emotional and psychologically intrepid. By delving into the minds and personalities of the characters as they live out their life, Ross engages the reader with exceptional persistence and creativity that are absolutely riveting.
Lucy is a married woman who doesn’t think about consequences, not at first—until becoming pregnant. Upon revelation, she is hesitant about what is growing inside of her. She has a new career, financial instability and a thriving marriage that is not yet ready to move on to a new chapter. All of these reasons come crashing down and begin to weigh on Lucy—she feels that the time is just not right and she must make a choice. After deciding to abort the baby, Lucy understands that she will be unable to part with it if she waits until birth to give the baby up for adoption. As if Lucy willed for another way, she is overcome with emotional distraught and relief when she has a miscarriage. She prays for the baby to come back in a few years when they are ready. After years pass and various failed attempts burden both Lucy and her husband, the emotional turmoil has grown to insurmountable discomfort—a discomfort that pushes him away. Lucy becomes withdrawn, unattached, unforgiving and essentially a shell of herself—until one day in a huge furniture store, she is drawn to a four-month-old baby alone in a cart. Though this thought process is highly irrational, Lucy feels justified, suddenly thinking that this is the baby that she had prayed for—that this is the one she had asked to come back into her life.
Lucy’s character, becoming withdrawn and systematic, points toward Post-Traumatic Stress. She weeps for the baby that she had lost, the baby that she would never give birth to. As everything begins shutting down, it is apparent that Lucy is not capable of criminal activity—much less kidnapping an innocent child. The way that she carries herself and her distraught sense of logic are signs of mental illness, but her composure and commonality is what deters those around her from seeing a clear picture of what could have actually transpired.
The author does a superb job with character development and credibility. As this story unfolds, so many factors come to play into these character’s lives. It is not difficult to sympathize with the victim in stories such as this, but even more striking than that—it is also not difficult to sympathize with the kidnapper. With such emotional conflict, making practicality and reason confusing at best—Ross has a compelling novel that will leave readers with awe. If you are a reader of women’s fiction or literary fiction, you may want to pick this up—but, fair warning…it may not be easy to put down.
A free copy was exchanged for an honest review of this fictional piece.