A Truly Appalling Novel

I recently finished reading an appalling book, which unfortunately isn’t all that uncommon. What is rare, however is the agitation I’ve been left with. Not only is the premise incredibly silly and the ending utterly nonsensical, but the author went on to bestselling fame. How is that possible? The only thing I can think of is that he either had an in with someone or he was dealing with agents, editors, and publishers who were also men. No woman would have ever countenanced the ignorance rampant in the novel.

(If you are squeamish about the workings of a woman’s body, feel free to decamp. I won’t mind.)

The story starts out with a married woman having an affair and getting pregnant. To cover it up, she makes sure she has lots of sex with her husband so he would believe the baby was his.

Thirty years later, the ensuing daughter falls in love and wants to get married, but her mother hates the fiancé and forbids the marriage, so the daughter elopes. When the mother finds out, she hops on a plane, goes to where the two are honeymooning and tells the new husband she had an affair with his father, that his new wife is his sister, and that neither the girl or her saintly doctor father must ever find out the truth.

Instead of ignoring the mother’s wishes and talking to his beloved new wife, the guy fakes his death, leaving his bride drowning in grief, and then gets plastic surgery. Huh? What sort of idiot does that sort of thing after a single conversation with someone who hates him? Wouldn’t even a halfway intelligent person insist on a DNA test before committing such a folly?

And that’s not the worst. It turns out that the father knew all along about his wife’s affair. He was so incensed, he killed the man, aborted the other man’s baby without the mother knowing about it, then had copious sex to make sure his wife got pregnant by him while thinking she was still pregnant with the other man’s child.

The stupidity of this is mind-boggling. First of all, the affair was in 1960, long before instant pregnancy tests. A woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she’d missed a period, and though she might suspect, it wouldn’t be official until she went to a doctor after missing a second period. So the woman had to be at least two months pregnant. And yet when she gave birth, she was relieved to find out that she had remained pregnant long past her due date so she didn’t have to explain the discrepancy. What, three months past? (Two months before the abortion, another month at least to get pregnant again.) She was okay with a supposed twelve-month pregnancy? No way. And during all this time, she never went to a doctor? Just let her surgeon husband take care of her?

And how in the world could she not know something was wrong after the abortion? She’d been drugged into oblivion, so she wouldn’t necessarily have psychological or emotional problems, but she would know that she’d been drugged and she sure as shooting would have physical issues. After an abortion, the body can go through shock, vast hormonal changes, post-partum depression caused by hormone imbalance, milk production, soreness, and a variety of other biological changes. She could have an empty feeling that has a biological rather than a psychological basis because the oxytocin that was being rapidly produced by the body to ensure the bonding between mother and child is suddenly flowing the other way causing a void where the bond used to be. There can also be something known as microchimerism. Since the mother and baby immediately start exchanging cells, the mother can now have the father’s DNA in her body. And in fact, as weird and improbable as it might seem, that DNA can show up in the next baby. (Which actually would have been a better story than this one.) If nothing else, she could have had a menstrual period after the abortion and before the new pregnancy. That isn’t always the case, but if it was, then for sure she’d have questions about why she was bleeding. And, if her doctor husband had kept her drugged all this time so she wouldn’t be aware of any of this, why wouldn’t she have developed an addiction to the strong drugs, and wouldn’t it concern the doctor that his offspring might be born already addicted?

That’s not all of it, of course. Since it was supposed to be a thriller, it had to do with the doctor going around killing everyone who knew about the affair, the newly plasticized husband going back to try out for his old position with the sports team he’d been a part of, and various and sundry other ludicrous plot points.

A truly appalling story. Now that I’ve passed the horror on to you, maybe I can stop agitating over it and be grateful that at least my books make sense.

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What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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