This post is a book review of a recent favorite, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas.
Friends, I hope all’s well with you. I just finished reading this novel by Donna Freitas a little while ago, and boy, oh boy, I have so many thoughts about it. I needed a few long weeks to let it sink in before giving my impressions of it.
If weeks after finishing a book you still can’t stop thinking about it, you know it’s a good one. I did a mini review on it in a previous post, but it is such an important topic for women that I felt I needed to go into more depth.
Rose, a married career woman does not want to bear children. In the book, the author describes nine different scenarios of how things will turn out for her no matter which path she chooses. A beautifully crafted work of fiction, one in which many women can put themselves in Rose’s shoes and completely relate.
Now let’s look at each of her “lives” a little bit more closely. In the book, Freitas goes from one life or two back and forth in no particular order, so in my analysis, I will attempt to do it the same way. I will explain the predicaments and the outcomes, which are more important than the actual number that was assigned to each life. Bear with me as I try to do this book justice.
The book starts off with Rose fighting with her husband Luke about her lack of discipline in taking her prenatal vitamins. She previously promised him that she will take them in an attempt to avoid another fight. They often argue about the fact that, although they both didn’t want children when they met and then married, Luke changed his mind and now he wants to procreate.
Rose is an accomplished academic and her career is very important to her. Since she was a teenager she decided that children were not for her. When she meets Luke, her husband, he was on the same page as her. But then, as the years go by, and with his parents pressuring him, he changes his mind and is adamant about wanting kids.
Donna Freitas shows Rose’s struggle with being judged and being made to feel like less of a woman for her decision to go childless. She also explores Rose’s relationship with her parents and the one with her mother in particular.
Rose has a good relationship with both her mother and her father, but her mother questions her daughter’s life choices. At one point she point-blank asked Rose if she was a bad mother and that is why she chose not to give her any grandchildren.
As we go from one life to the next, we can feel Rose’s pain and at times sympathize with her. Some people think she’s being selfish for being able to (as far as she knows) bear children, yet decided not to. Her closest friend Jill and her aunt Frankie are the only two women in her life who support her decision, as they themselves chose to remain childless. Everyone else does not understand and tries to convince her that once she decides to have a baby she will feel complete, and wonder what took her so long to finally do it.
No matter which scenario she tries to imagine, the outcome is not that different. Her decision is the ultimate one that matters, and at times she ends up questioning not whether or not she should have a child, but how she feels about the decision of whether or not to have a child. All the outside influences, her husband, her mother, and her in-laws, all try to make her change her mind and make her feel as if she’s not woman enough for not complying.
Let’s dissect each scenario as Rose sees them, and see how it turns out for herself in the book.
Again, I will not go into life one, two, etc., but rather by scenario.
In a make-believe world, she finally decides to give in and have the baby with Luke. Will it save her marriage? For a while, she believes it was the best decision she could have made and proved everyone right, but does it really?
In a different life, she does try to have a baby but is unsuccessful. The strain it puts on the marriage is so strong, will they be able to overcome it?
In a third scenario, they do try for a baby, she gets pregnant but does not carry to term. Will they try again, will it tear them apart and end the marriage?
Now, for more dramatic turns, she changes her mind and has the baby but dies in childbirth. How does it make her husband feel? How long will he blame himself for pressuring her into changing her mind?
In another life, she categorically refuses to change her mind and the conflict it creates in her marriage is something they might not be able to overcome.
Another life yet she complies and has the baby, but is so unhappy she ends up having an affair. She chooses to remain in the marriage and tries her best to deal with everything the best way she can.
A similar context is that she has the baby and the affair, but it ends up breaking the marriage.
She meets Thomas, a fellow Sociologist at a conference out of town, starts an affair with him, and leaves the marriage. She ends up raising Thomas’s daughter with him while she remains childless in a different life.
Another outcome is that no matter what decision they come to, in the end, their marriage and their love for one another are strong enough and they survive anything.
I hope you’re not too confused because in the book Donna Freitas does transit from all of those scenarios fluently and she makes it easy to follow. And it brought so many emotions to the surface that I have experienced from time to time.
As a woman and a mother myself, I can understand the pressure and struggles an accomplished, healthy woman must face if she makes the unpopular, and often seen as unnatural decision, to opt out of motherhood.
Our Lives, Our Bodies
I personally respect anyone’s decision because, at the end of the day, our bodies and our lives are our own, and nobody should have the right to have an opinion on that. Whether you choose to have a baby or not, that does not diminish your right to decide for yourself the path you want in life and does not make you less of a human.
The book did raise so many questions. No matter what we do, or what decisions we make in life women always bear the grunt of the final decision. At times it creates a lot of conflicts, at other times it brings you closer to those you love the most.
Can couples survive if they do not have children to glue them together? What keeps some from going their separate ways? Those are just some of the questions that arose while I was reading this book, and although a work of fiction, it really did resonate with me.
I can go on and on, but I think I should probably stop here and let you come to your own conclusions.
This post includes my book review of The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano.
Did you read the book? If you did, what did you think of it? Are you planning on reading it, or have I made you not want to give it a try? I would like your feedback, but please try to keep it respectful.
Until next time, keep reading my fellow bookworms.