The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

 

Only ten pages into The Unfinished Child, my heart was already in my throat. I could tell this was going to be one powerful read.

The novel tells the story of three women: Marie MacPherson, mother of two and unexpectedly pregnant at age 39; her best friend, Elizabeth, infertile for years despite treatments; and Margaret, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome in 1947. Their experiences finally converge in a shocking conclusion that lingers well after setting the book down.

Shea writes with such incredible care and sensitivity, I felt connected to each of these characters on a deeply personal level; whether I’d faced their struggles or not. Little details as simple as putting the word “failed” in quotes when speaking of infertility (“failed” to conceive)…yes, Shea gets it.

This is a confronting book in many ways. It addresses immensely challenging moral issues, especially ones unique to women, and contains a side that is absolutely horrifying. I’m not sure I can think of many other fiction writers who’ve shown the level of compassion that Shea does here. She drew me into her characters’ lives. I watched their situations unfold as if they were happening to dear friends. I felt for them even when they made choices I would never make myself.

Novels that do this are so important! This is the kind of story that helps us understand one another. It will resonate with anyone who has considered the issues that arise with adoption, infertility, a surprise pregnancy, special needs children, and the complicated relationships between women and among family. The Unfinished Child will move you and give you a multitude of things to think about long after you finish reading. Best book I’ve read so far this year.