The subject of the new novel from Heti (How Should a Person Be?
) is neither birth nor child-rearing, but the question of whether to want a child, which the unnamed narrator calls “the greatest secret I keep from myself.” To find the answer, she practices techniques cribbed from the I Ching
, consults a psychic and Tarot cards, contemplates her mother’s experiences as a woman, counts her periods, and considers freezing her eggs. In the meantime, she and her partner, Miles, are going through a rough patch, only partly due to her indecision, which is exacerbated by visits with her friends (all of whom seem to have newborn babies), recurrent and bittersweet fantasies of raising a family, and her knowledge that she is reaching the end of the window when maternity is possible. A book of sex (the real, unsensational kind), mood swings, and deep feminist thought, this volume is essentially a chronicle of vacillating ruminations on this big question. Although readers shouldn’t go in expecting clean-cut epiphanies, this lively, exhilaratingly smart, and deliberately, appropriately frustrating affair asks difficult questions about women’s responsibilities and desires, and society’s expectations. (May)