cover image The Mothers

The Mothers

Jennifer Gilmore. Scribner, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9725-4

Gilmore’s third novel (after Something Red) is the heartfelt cry of a woman who desperately wants a baby. Jesse Wein-traub, a history professor in Manhattan, is postcancer and almost 40. After years of trying to get pregnant, she and husband Ramon Aragon pursue open adoption. The chronicle of their 10-year marriage, forged when Jewish Jesse met Spanish-Italian Ramon in Italy, is a paradoxical tale of marital love surmounting cultural and religious differences and then veering into obsessive desperation. The torturous bureaucracy of adoption results in heartbreak, as prospective birthmothers lead Jesse and Ramon through a litany of scams. Gilmore doesn’t spare her heroine; Jesse is angry, bitter, resentful, abrasive, panicked, and acerbically funny. She hates Ramon’s possessive Italian mother, resents her own mother for the career that included extensive travel and little time for mothering, is jealous of friends who conceive easily, and is stunned when her estranged sister rejoins the family, unwed but pregnant. Throughout, Jesse muses on the essence of motherhood—and on how the biological clock can be challenged by circumstances. Though often painful to read, this candid account at once embraces “the possibility for anything” and seems to set up a happy resolution for Jesse and Ramon. Agent: Jenn Joel, ICM. (Apr. 9)