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 sixteen 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.
We all take for granted the ease with which we conceive, carry and give birth to our children, but what about those women who struggle, who get pregnant only to loose a baby, how devastating that can be?
McPartlin introduced us to a group of women, all individually engrossed in their own grief, and struggles. Each poured out those feelings in a fertility support group, one that at first seemed quite depressing, the smiles, the laughter a distant thought. Catherine, a successful lawyer, married, a sufferer of endometriosis, numerous failed IVF attempts behind her, Janet, the quiet mouse, again married, failed pregnancies that traumatised and knocked her confidence. Natalie, desperate for a child with her reluctant partner Lindsey.
They may have had childless in common, but it was the fact that McPartlin portrayed them as so completely separate, never mixing outside of the group, never engaging properly with one another that puzzled me until a new member of the group, Ronnie appeared. Ronnie was like a low rumbling earthquake that McPartlin sent in to stir things up. She was bold and brash, outspoken, but exactly what was needed as she opened eyes, made them look outside their enclosed narrow world. At times she felt unreal, almost as if the women imagined her, a conscience or small fairy that sat on their shoulder, that niggled at them, pushed them out of their closeted comfort zones.
Ronnie, herself, was a closed book a mystery to us and the women, and it niggled as I came up with various possibilities, trying to read between the lines of narrative hoping McPartlin had left some clues.
It wasn’t until the story progressed that I began to piece the jigsaw together but not before the author took me back to 1976 and a very different time, a young girl, Catherine, hopelessly in love with the local rich boy, Justin. She was naive, unaware of the dangers of sex, of what might happen until the inevitable, an out of wedlock pregnancy, the shame of her family, Justin’s parents eager to be rid of her, to protect their son at all costs. This was Ireland and there was only one place for fallen girls, the dreaded convent with nuns who were cruel uncaring, who sold the babies, worked the girls to skin and bones, extracted money from relatives for release. Now the surprise for me was that I thought such places had ceased to exist by 1976, How wrong I was. McPartlin’s narrative was raw and unflinching, the horrors of birth, the complete disregard for the young girls astonishing, but what shone through was Catherine’s strength and utter determination to not let them win, to have a life. It may have taken her some time, the obstacles, the ease with which her family disowned her were at times insurmountable, but you knew deep down that Catherine would get there, would prove them all wrong.
The last great mystery was how the two timelines were linked, what or who connected them. I think I had guessed but not the reasons and when McPartlin revealed all it was heartbreaking, but so poignantly written. Yes I felt sadness, but there was also admiration for the courage McPartlin instilled in her characters, for the hope and happiness that loomed large on their horizons and the overriding feeling that whatever obstacles life puts in our way there can be a way through even if that journey has many false starts and unhappiness along the way.
I would like to thank Zaffre for a copy of Waiting For The Miracle to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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 been writing 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.
To learn more about Waiting for the Miracle follow Anna on Twitter at: @annamcpartlin & Instagram: @mcpartlin.anna
Waiting For The Miracle Zaffre June 10th 2021