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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Books, movies, and babies - a convergence

Last weekend was about babies, in one way or another.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
Baby Proof
Emily Giffin
St. Martin's Griffin (paperback) 2007 (ISBN 0312348657)
Fiction, 368 pages

First sentence: I never wanted to be a mother.

Book description: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes....a baby carriage? Isn't that what all women want? Not so for Claudia Parr. And just as she gives up on finding a man who feels the same way, she meets warm, wonderful Ben. Things seem too good to be true when they fall in love and agree to buck tradition with a satisfying, child-free marriage. Then the unexpected occurs: one of them has a change of heart. One of them wants children after all. This is the witty, heartfelt story about what happens to the perfect couple when they suddenly want different things. It's about feeling that your life is set and then realizing that nothing is as you thought it was--and that there is no possible compromise. It's about deciding what is most important in life, and taking chances to get it. But most of all, it's about the things we will do--and won't do--for love.

Comments: I think it may be difficult for those who've never been through a divorce, or a really bad breakup, to believe that there really can be "irreconcilable differences." Before I went through it myself, I'm not sure I believed it - if love really is all you need, shouldn't that make you able to reconcile and resolve any difference? Perhaps - the question then becomes what you're willing to give up to resolve it. Sometimes there are things we want, or don't want, or even parts of ourselves, that we'd have to let go of in order to preserve the relationship - and when it comes down to that choice, the relationship is what we have to let go instead.

People come together, and get married, with certain terms and understandings between them. If one person's stance on those terms changes, it alters the context of the relationship, and that's where Claudia and Ben are when he starts thinking he might want children after all. She's always known she didn't, and that becomes a difference that they can't reconcile. Meanwhile, nearly every other woman in Claudia's circle either has children or is trying to.

I enjoyed this book, although I found some of the plot twists a bit frustrating and others felt a little forced, and the resolution was a bit disappointing. The characters were well-developed and relatable, and while I didn't necessarily agree with all of Claudia's choices and actions, I could see her develop and grow over the course of the story, and I do like when that occurs. I like Emily Giffin's writing; I've read all (three) of her novels, and they have more depth and development than one usually associates with "chick lit." All of her books have given me things to think about concerning relationships; she doesn't draw in stark black and white, and I do find the grays more interesting.

I've pondered on this one a fair amount, but this book stirred it back up: In many stories, it seems that there's a lot more energy and anxiety expended over the prospect of having a baby than there is over raising a child, which is the true life-changer, if you ask me. I think it's not unlike the way there seems to be more put into preparing for a wedding than preparing for a marriage in many cases. Maybe both of these changes are just so big you don't really grasp all of their ramifications until after they've happened, but I'd still like to know people are thinking about them more...

Rating: 3.25/5

Juno

Juno
Comedy, 2007

It was interesting timing to see this comedy about an unplanned pregnancy while still reading a book about a woman who doesn't want children. It's a little different for 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, though. Whether or not she wants them at some point in the future is uncertain - she just knows she doesn't want one now.

In the "choice" debates, one option that really doesn't get mentioned much anymore is adoption. Juno's first inclination is to seek an abortion, but when she's unable to go through with it, she decides that she'll try to find a good home for her baby. Apparently, she never considers keeping and raising the child - and I have to say I found that very appealing and responsible. 16-year-olds do get pregnant, but that doesn't mean they're anywhere near ready to be parents...and it may be the best thing for both them and their babies if they don't try to be. (Juno does grasp the real life-changer, and knows she's not ready for it.)

I found a great deal about this movie very appealing, really. It's very funny, and the humor comes from the humanity of the characters. The teens are very true-to-life, and Juno's father and stepmother are impressively level-headed and supportive. The drama of the situation never becomes melodrama, and the humor doesn't become slapstick. The quirkiness of the characters feels authentic, not showy.

I was curious to see how my husband would react to the movie, being the father of a teenage daughter. He enjoyed this funny, sweet, but not at all sentimental, film just as much as I did.

4 comments:

  1. You make this book very tempting. It's not one I would probably pick up on my own, I admit. I find the title and cover off-putting (I can hear someone in the background saying, "judging a book by its cover, eh?) I did enjoy reading your review. You make some very good points about marriage as well as the idea of having a baby versus raising a child.

    You summed up Juno very well. My husband and I concur with your thoughts on it!

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  2. I'm so confused now. I was under the impression that I had read this book already, but glancing at your review I'm sure I have it. Do I own the book? Where is it?

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  3. (You know you have too many unread books when...)

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  4. Literary Feline - Wendy, some of your reviews have tempted me toward books I might not pick up on my own - nice to know it works both ways! :-)

    Bubandpie - I set up a book catalog on LibraryThing over the holidays, and found out then exactly how many unread books I have, so I know what you mean. "Too many" definitely applies.

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