Harvesting the Heart - Jodi Picoult
I read for three reasons: to be entertained, to learn, to feel. This book hit the third one so perfectly on the head I considered dedicating an entire post just to it. As my three consistent readers of this blog happen to know I'm the wife of a medical resident. I have four kids and I stay at home. In this book Jodi Picoult presents you with Paige, a young woman who is suffering. Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was a young girl. She gets pregnant in high school and then fearing disappointing her father, being trapped in a loveless marriage, and who she will be as a mother aborts the child and flees to a new city trying to leave the painful past behind. She meets a young talented medical student who she quickly falls in love with and marries thinking that he posses the power to make her complete. Their life is busy and full of sacrifice, especially after his parents pull their financial support of his education but the hard work seems to keep Paige relatively happy, that is until Paige gets pregnant. Then it all comes rushing back, the guilt of the abortion, the abandonment by her mother, feelings of not being good enough, and the realization that where she thought she was going to finally have a chance to go to school she will be instead saddled in the house with a baby she fears she will not know how to love and care for while her husband is off saving the world. What would normally be a happy time for most puts Paige into extreme distress that her busy husband fails to see.
Jodi Picoult how did you write this? Did you spy on my life? Did you steal my emotions? Were you yourself the young stay at home wife of a medical resident? Did you suffer from abandonment by a parent? Did you suffer from feelings of inadequacy about your motherhood? Did you suffer from postpartum depression? Did you watch your dreams fizzle out and die while all your time and energy had to go into the making true of someone else's dream? This book was so painful for me that I cried for a good third of the book, heart wrenching sobs. Peach would sit next to me on the couch watching me read and beg me to tell her what was wrong, what was hurting. The emotions it released were so strong and raw. Dr J and I actually got into a huge fight that I know for a fact was directly related to the pain this book showed me I was carrying.
There are things about my life that I love, times when my children are just beyond cute, times when I'm excited about the path that my life is taking, times when I am post card happy. Then there are things about my life that hurt. When you are married to someone who has a demanding job or whose schooling has taken an exceptionally long time or both, you often find that your dreams have had to be shelved or melded just into their dream in order to make their dream come true. You think that at some point you are going to go back, back to school, back to a job, back to something that shows that you have value beyond just being able to mostly get ten loads of laundry done a week, that you can have everything that you always wanted, the happy children, the beautiful house, the successful spouse, the adventurous life, financial security in the future, the exciting occupation but then one day you are sitting in the car listening to an NPR report while you are picking a daughter up from preschool and you hear a pew report about how if you return to work you will make considerably less than you did when you left, that there is a 60% chance you will never get a full time job again, that taking time out has cost you salary and time you can never make back and that because YOU PERSONALLY HAVE BEEN OUT OF THE GAME SO LONG the chances of you ever making it back are almost nil. It will take your breath away and you'll sit in stunned silence because your husband has been promising you for years that when he finally finishes that it will be your turn and suddenly your realize you may have missed your turn forever. I have an amazing friend who just went back to school and got her masters degree. She posted a picture of her dissertation and it filled me with so much joy to realize that she was making some of her dreams came true but it also filled me with sadness because I'd come to realize that she is actually a marvelous, talented, beautiful exception and not the rule. This is what Harvesting the Heart brought back to me. All my fears, my pains, my inadequacies they were on the pages.
My sister asked me, "Should I read this book." "Yes," I said. "No," I said. She had a baby three months ago. "I don't know if you are a ready for it," I said. "G is so young. It still might hurt too much." We talked about the book for awhile longer and then she suddenly said, "Oh my gosh, I'm out of the game." She gave up working full time two years ago. "Wait," I said to her, "you just realized this." We both had a little sigh over it. Look I know what I do in my home is important. I'm not saying it isn't. I realize that I have value and that what I do matters. But I am a person with dreams as well. Maybe it is pride, maybe it is foolishness but when an accounting of my life happens while maybe I'd like most of my accomplishments to be in the family category, I'd also like a few to be outside of it. I'd like to know that I touched other people's lives as well and not just in an abstract through the achievements of my children. Does that make sense? Does it sound selfish?
Who is going to feel this book strongly. Resident spouses...this book is for you. People who may have felt they lost themselves while helping someone else follow a dream. People who have suffered abandonment. People who have worried they are going to mess their children up because of the baggage their parents saddled them with as a child. People who worry that the choices they made previously with another pregnancy might affect the choices they make with a future child. People who have felt inadequate when dealing with their husband's boss or the other wives of their husbands coworkers. People who have suffered from postpartum. People who married young and feel they have changed as they've aged. Is this book enjoyable...well I cried through quite a bit of it so it is hard for me to say yes to that, but it is truth. I don't know how Jodi so adequately captured it, but it is truth.