My first Diane Chamberlain book, and it won’t be my last. I’m looking forward to going through her backlist, despite my resolutions to read more new releases. I’m not sure how to characterize the story, though. It doesn’t necessarily have a traditional plot and story arc. It’s more character and situation driven, with the reader discovering (and for me, feeling both horrified and unsurprised by) 1960’s social work and eugenics programs along with a naïve but determined young woman. And these discoveries parallel her own realization of how little personal autonomy she has, once she has married and is expected to give up control of her desires, career, brains, opinions, appearance, and reproductive system to her husband. And to do it cheerfully.
It’s an interesting and realistic story, somewhat spoiled by a
happily ever after kind of ending.
Although many readers might not consider that a flaw.
Audiobook, via Audible, with an excellent performance by Alison Elliot.
Amazing to read of a truly compassionate social worker speaking of trying to bend the rules to get her client into the eugenics program - at the client's request - because she's 33 and can barely manage with the five children she already has. This is 1960, the year that oral contraceptives were first approved by the FDA, and sterilization is the only truly reliable birth control available to poor people. Then in the same chapter, read about that same client begging that same social worker not to enroll her legally blind son in the same program, and the social worker agreeing to put it off for another year, but worried that he's old enough to start making babies. And neither one are arguing against the morality or rightness of forced sterilization of a poor black boy because he has a congenital disability, but only worrying that he's too young and shouldn't have to face the pain of surgery yet.
It's so hard to believe that there was a time when a physician could decide to withhold birth control from his patient until he discussed it with her husband and obtained the husband's consent. But I know it's true - I've heard the stories. And some people talk about the 1950s-1960's as though they were the "good old days"!