Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Preconception Dilemma

I've dealt with preconceptions about book stories before. There have been times, in the past, when reading the back cover blurb and the excerpt of a story have made my eyes bug out in true WTF fashion. In the last case where a story made me go "oh HELL naw," I checked the book out from the library to find out for myself, for as much as the story repulsed me, it also intrigued me enough to read how it would turn out.

Well, it's happened again, and with an author I've read before:
The backcover blurb (according to Book Binge:)
Pia was your typical popular girl in high school – she made friends easily, cheered on the squad, and had her share of dates with the school jocks. But she’s always had a hard time committing to something, or someone.

So when her best friend Crystal succumbs to cancer, Pia is devastated, but also shocked by the inheritance her friend has left her – her frozen embryos! Pia’s in a quandary. It’s not like she can just throw them away. But is she really capable of being responsible for another human being?

For once, Pia throws caution to the wind and decides to embrace Crystal’s legacy. But as she struggles with her decision, another complication arises that Pia is totally unprepared for. She finally meets the man of her dreams…and her life becomes more confusing than she ever thought possible.

The story made me go NO NO NO WRONG WRONG WRONG almost immediately, for a number of reasons.

First of all, I should say that my disgust at this storyline goes far, far beyond my own personal beliefs regarding abortion, whether life begins at conception, and artificial reproduction. I find I can read just about anything in a book if it's written well enough - no, the idea of someone willing someone frozen embryos after they're dead makes me squicky in so many different, equally heinous ways.

Reason the First: While I'll admit that it's a pretty unique and complicated take on the "Unattached Person Suddenly Inherits Children" storyline (see: Raising Helen), the embryo situation makes it so much creepier and more invasive. I mean, Pia is not just tasked with raising kids, but with being impregnated with kids - three kids, to be exact - meaning she's taking on the health risks and the physical toll, too. I'm sorry, but Crystal would have to be a serious life-saving, ass-kicking friend on the level of, say, Buffy Summers, to have the sheer, unmitigated balls to feel entitled to all that.

Reason the Second: Pregnancy issues aside, Pia is an unmarried, single woman with a life and a successful career - and her dead friend Crystal presumably knew that. Soooo, Super-Bestest But Unfortunately Dead Friend Who Clearly Hopes To Compete for Heaven's Dead Mother Of the Year: you're not exactly helping your friend by making her give up her livelihood for your kids, and neither are you giving your unborn children the best future by bequeathing their babysicle selves to a person who has not been in any way prepared for them. What's your deal?

Oh wait, maybe I'm judging too harshly - this is presumably something Crystal and Pia would have discussed, as it is something that intimately concerns both Crystal's and Pia's health and reproductive futures. Pia probably just never assumed Crystal would die so suddenly and thus thought nothing of it until it was too late.

Reason the Third: What's that, Dead-of-Cancer-Crystal? Oh, you didn't tell Pia in advance of your plans? In fact, you PURPOSEFULLY CHOSE TO NOT WARN HER because you KNEW she wouldn't want to do it? Um, look around you, Crystal - is it warm where you are? Are there little red men in capes and pitchforks around you?

WHAT. THE. EFF. I haven't read an action that seemed so unbelievably selfish, manipulative and cruel for a long time.

That's right - selfish. You're dead. Your husband's dead. You are not going to be AROUND to raise any kids, thanks to a severe cancer-kick in the groin by Fate. Why the hell do you want kids so badly? It can't be for you - you'll be DEAD. Is it the immortality thing? The continuation of the line? What's the point?

I mean, I believe the kids should be born, because I've personally been raised in the belief that life starts at conception - but people who believe in artificial insemination and in-vitro, in general, don't tend to share that opinion. So I ask you yet again, what is YOUR FUCKING DEAL?

I mean, if this had been some long-held pact between Crystal and Pia that Pia had accepted without taking seriously, I could have handled that. That could have been a good story. But I read the chapter one excerpt and it makes it really clear that Crystal's character intentionally decided to bequeath her kids to Pia without giving her advance notice to prepare or refuse consent.

Am I the only one who finds that decision inherently cruel and unethical? Pia is given something of a choice over her body, but a heavily manipulated choice. Yeah, you could raise the three babies your friend gave you - or you could be a selfish dried-up shrew and Worst Friend Ever and let them DIE in a freezer. You wouldn't do that to your poor, poor, saintly, bestest-friend, cancer-victim Crystal, would you? WOULD YOU?

ARGH! Just thinking about that storyline fills me with rage. But you guys already know what that means.


I'm going to have to read this entire book to figure it out for myself, aren't I?


  1. Anonymous1:56 AM

    I haven't read this book but I don't think you are judging too harshly, it does sound awful and recently I have been having similar discussions a lot.
    Why should I respect a single woman in her mid thirties who wants a baby but not necessarily a partner?
    How many times did I hear something like "If by the time I am 40 I am not in a relationship I'll do it on my own"
    I find this way of reasoning very selfish, and act of selfishness rather than love.

  2. I read the book and couldn't agree more with you. I so wanted to enjoy the story but I hated it. Everything about this embryo story felt just wrong to me and made me mad.

    What also annoyed me that everyone said "Oh, so now you will get Crystal's babies" - no, they will be Pia's babies!
    The feeling I got was that Pia would have been selfish if she decided against getting the babies and that's something I can not agree with.

  3. Like Sabrina, I read the entire book and you're right, it was the most selfish thing Crystal could have ever done. It was definitely put on Pia that she'd be an awful bitch to "let those babies die". Which is, of course, the best way for a woman to feel about 3 kids she's going to give birth to, right?

    I enjoyed the parts of the story that had to do with Pia as a separate person, but anytime the "embryos" or "kids" were mentioned, the top of my head blew off.

    Thinking about it now, I was way too forgiving and generous in my review.

  4. It doesn't sound like my style of story so I'll pass.
    I can't agree with the generality that people who use assisted reproduction techniques don't share the opinion that life begins at conception. There are quite a few of us actually.

  5. forgot to tick the follow-up box - nothing to see here!

  6. Vorkosigrrl12:18 PM

    OMG. Sounds horrible. I completely agree with your ethical reservations about his book.

  7. Anonymous3:31 PM

    She wouldn't even have to let the embryos die, you can donate embryos to fertility clinics. I'm a test-tube baby (as are both my siblings)and my parents donated their extra embryos after my borther was born. Also, then there wouldnt be the ethical quandary of forcing someone to have children against their will; they would be born to people who actually wanted them from the beginning.

  8. Haha random coincidence but this morning I for no apparent reason started thinking about whether I would donate my eggs.

    To be honest even things like Raising Helen freak me out - do not just leave a single woman with kids to raise without discussing it with her, it is icky and a total violation of her right to choose whether or not to have kids. Also it freaks me the hell out and results in me going around telling everyone not to leave their babies with me ever.

    I am of course intrigued to see you read the whole book and get your full rant on.