cover image WINDFALLS


Jean Hegland, . . Atria, $25 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-7007-0

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WINDFALLS Jean Hegland . Atria , $25 (352p) ISBN 0-7434-7007-9

The decision whether or not to keep a child alters the lives of two young, single women in this moving if rather programmatic second novel by Hegland (Into the Forest ). Telling parallel stories that ultimately converge, Hegland explores the value of work, art, family ties and the singular bond between women and their children. Anna, a graduate photography student, has an abortion, eventually marries and has two children; Cerise, a high school sophomore, keeps her baby, raises it on her own, ekes out a living and later has another child. In following the course of their very different lives, Hegland describes a full range of maternal emotions and experiences—the mind-numbing exhaustion; the weight of responsibility; the fierce desire to protect; the boundless joys and heartbreaking sorrows. When a tragic fire results in the death of Cerise's second child and the loss of her home, Hegland illuminates the plight of homeless people and demonstrates how easy it is to lose one's sense of self. Cerise hides behind a new identity, as "Honey," and finds a job at a day-care center, where her resolve and sense of purpose in the face of heart-shattering grief are remarkable. Meanwhile, Anna's life is upended when her husband's sudden unemployment forces a move to California from her family's Washington homestead. Circumstances force her back into the workforce, and Hegland brings fresh insight to the struggle working mothers face in juggling home life with their careers. When Honey becomes a caretaker for Anna's two young children, a curious bond develops between Anna and Honey as the two women strive to find a sense of purpose in their lives. The result is a powerful, life-changing experience for both of them, bringing Hegland's novel to a poignant, thought-provoking conclusion. (Apr.)

Forecast: Hegland's unswerving focus on social issues—the cost of motherhood, the plight of the homeless—makes this a good prospect for reading groups.