cover image A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself

A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself

Peter Ho Davies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-27771-7

Davies (The Fortunes) delves into fatherhood in his thoughtful latest, intertwining musings on pregnancy, marriage, family life, and work. The unnamed narrator, a writer and creative writing professor, makes the difficult decision with his wife to terminate their pregnancy after the fetus tests positive for mosaicism and their doctor gives them a long list of potential birth defects. A subsequent successful pregnancy brings new fears over their son’s development, as the couple processes their internalized shame over the abortion and their son’s potential autism (“Abortion is shameful, because pregnancy is shameful, because sex is shameful, because periods are shameful. It almost makes me relieved we had a boy,” the wife says). Davies explores their emotions in unflinching honesty, as the narrator contends with lingering fears over getting their son tested for autism. Davies’s smooth prose and ruminations on language (a synonym for “imagine,” the narrator considers, is also “to conceive”) are the stars of this work. While an anticlimactic, philosophical conclusion somewhat undermines the narrator’s character development after he embraces his role as a father, it resonates with the key theme of paradoxes. Davies’s meditation on the complexities of parenthood is at once celebration and absolution, finding truth in human contradictions. Agent: Maria Massie, Massie & McQuilkin Literary. (Jan.)