cover image Eleven Hours

Eleven Hours

Pamela Erens. Tin House (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-941040-29-4

Early one wintry morning, Lore, an elementary school speech therapist who is nine-months pregnant, enters a New York City hospital alone. Her contractions have started, and though she isn't terribly far along, her assigned nurse, Franckline, quickly sets her up in the maternity ward, where the duo ride out the long process of Lore's labor together. As the hours pass, the women sit in Lore's room and walk the hospital halls, and snippets of their histories come to light%E2%80%94including Franckline's time as a midwife's helper in her native Haiti and Lore's difficult childhood, as well as the complicated love triangle that resulted in her solo trip to the hospital. In addition, it isn't long before Franckline's own early pregnancy is revealed. After several miscarriages, however, Franckline is afraid to tell her husband of her condition until she is certain her baby will survive. Written with incredible clarity, this third novel from Erens (The Virgins) is a wonder, shifting between two protagonists with ease to tell a deeply personal narrative of childbirth, complete with tension, horror, and deep, mature emotion. This novel does not sentimentalize the delivery of a child but rather examines the surprise%E2%80%94mental and physical%E2%80%94that accompanies it. Labor stories are as old as time, but Erens's novel feels incredibly fresh and vivid. An outstanding accomplishment. (May)