Caroline has hit rock bottom. After years of trying, it’s clear she can’t have children, and the pain has driven her and her husband apart. She isn’t pregnant, her husband is gone, and her beloved dog is dead.
The other women at her infertility support group have their own problems, too. Natalie’s girlfriend is much less excited about having children than her. Janet’s husband might be having an affair. And then there’s Ronnie, intriguing, mysterious Ronnie, who won’t tell anyone her story.
Catherine is sixeen and pregnant. Her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her, and her parents are ashamed. When she’s sent away to a convent for pregnant girls, she is desperate not to be separated from her child. But she knows she might risk losing the baby forever
This was an absorbing and ‘unputdownable’ book tackling some very difficult issues in a sensitive but entertaining manner. Read on and I’ll tell you more.
Two stories run parallel through this book, Caroline who is desperate to conceive but cannot and 34 years previous Catherine who at 16 fell pregnant unexpectedly and found herself ostracised. The story, set in Ireland in 2010, has a support group for women struggling with infertility as its focal point and we learn the stories of several women who bond and support each other on their respective journeys. Ronnie is a new comer, initially rude and outspoken she quickly becomes a key part of the group, supporting the other women but never sharing her story.
Catherine’s story was desperately sad, shocking and traumatic. Enough has been written now about the convents for pregnant girls, run on cruelty and judgement, but told in the first person voice of Catherine this became much more tangible. Things do improve somewhat for Catherine but the loss of her child and the trauma of her experiences remain with her for life.
The two stories running parallel worked well and my preferences changed depending on what was happening. For the women struggling with infertility I gained a new appreciation of how hard this must be, the hope, the loss of hope, the having to decide when to stop trying and the impact of all of this on relationships with partner, with family and with friends. For Catherine the judgement and blame was astonishing, ‘she’s got herself pregnant’. It was a stark reminder of how much we have moved on, but today I am alarmed to read that the World Health Organisation are recommending that ALL women of child bearing age shouldn’t drink alcohol and I remember the default is patriarchal and there is always a drive to control women’s bodies.
Back to the book, I started this review with a comment about the book being entertaining and I was unsure about using that word, but it was entertaining, detailing women supporting women, sharing their journeys whilst waiting for the miracle. The miracle came in an unexpected way and the book took a turn. I did cry, this book is sad and very moving in places but it is also about survival and the strength of women, definitely a book I would recommend. A clear blurb details what the book is about, because it won’t be for everyone, but a fantastic work of fiction with two great stories running parallel with a central theme of women and fertility.
Anna McPartlin writes beautifully, I have enjoyed some of her other works including Below the Big Blue Sky (reviewed here), the follow up to The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes. Described by Waterstones as ‘JojoMoyes meets Marian Keyes’, I wouldn’t disagree with this so if you are a fan of strong, entertaining contemporary fiction and enjoy the aforementioned authors this book is definitely for you!
This is a blogtour celebrating publication of Waiting for a Miracle, you can read what others are saying about this great book using the details below.
About the Author
Anna McPartlin is a novelist and scriptwriter from Dublin, who has written for TV serial dramas featured on BBc UK, RTE Ireland and A&E America. She has written adult fiction for over ten years, and also writes for children under the name Bannie McPartlin. She lives with her husband Donal and their four dogs.