cover image Reproduction


Louisa Hall. Ecco, $30 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-328362-6

Hall (Speak) delves into conception, pregnancy, and childbirth with the story of a writer, her friend, and Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. In 2018, the unnamed pregnant narrator moves from New York City to Montana with her husband. She has a miscarriage, and while working on a novel about Shelley, she becomes fixated on Shelley’s horrifying experiences, including the death of her three young children and a near-fatal miscarriage. The narrator also reconnects with her old friend Anna, a scientist studying human genetic engineering. As Anna attempts to get pregnant via IVF and a sperm donor, the narrator incorporates Anna’s story into her novel, as well as an account of her own miscarriage and increasingly nightmarish reproductive challenges during the early days of the pandemic. Hall’s unconventional novel, thick with dreams, the narrator’s pregnancy-induced nausea, and the dread induced by wildfires and Covid-19, offers visceral descriptions and striking insights (describing Anna, the narrator writes: “She’d felt like their monster: out of control of her own body. It had filled her with rage, which made her doubt her capacity to be a good mother. But she’d also been excited”). Graceful, precise, and perceptive, this is a memorable take on the danger and strangeness of pregnancy. (June)