Deep in the Heart

Sharon Oard Warner, Author Dial Press $23.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-32006-1
The complexity of the abortion issue transcends bumper-sticker slogans, this debut novel argues, and its author does well to avoid dogma as two women search for their personal truths in the reproductive rights debate. A soft-focus narrative, with multiple points of view, first gives voice to Hannah Solace, 39, a high school assistant principal who is pregnant for the first time. Her decision to have an abortion rather than to face parenthood is criticized by her husband, Carl, a sensitive artist and bookstore manager who desperately wants to be a father, and by her matronly sister Helen. A crusading fundamentalist minister, the flamboyant Dr. Bill forces the Solaces' private grief into the limelight after confronting Carl at the abortion clinic. He makes Hannah and Carl the subject of his Sunday sermon and sends his pro-life zealots to vandalize their home. Dr. Bill also courts Penny Reed, 23, a member of his congregation, who is just beginning to form her views of life and religion. Penny's absent mother and overbearingly religious grandmother both struggled with unwanted pregnancies, and the young woman wrestles with the ghosts of their past decisions. When she meets Carl, she learns to question the easy moral supremacy that Dr. Bill and his crusade advertises. Warner has a gift for detailed, evocative writing and careful characterizations, but her plot feels contrived, weighed down by obvious twists of fate and symmetrical turning points. Just when Hannah and Carl's marriage falls apart, Carl finds a friend in Penny; Hannah's publicly condemned abortion is juxtaposed with an unwed high school student's equally controversial decision to keep her baby. One plot thread that does stand out within the overdetermined schema concerns Carl's difficult position as a would-be father who grieves his unborn child while struggling to understand his wife's choice. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-385-32011-5
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