Talking About My Baby
This is the story of two people who have been to hell. Together they find, not heaven, but seemingly more hell.
Tara Marcus is a prickly radical whose ethical causes have brought her several jail sentences, including one incarceration in Chile during which she was raped and tortured. She now works as a midwife at a clinic in Texas where teenaged Mexican girls come to have their babies on American soil. One such Mexican girl abandons a baby in Tara’s car. Tara, who is infertile, loves the baby. Rather than going to social services, she jumps in the car and heads for her mother’s home in Colorado.
Isaac McCrea is a physician who spent most of his adult life caring for the sick in Rwanda. There his beloved wife died in childbirth, and more recently his wife’s entire family was slaughtered in the genocide. He and his three children escaped, and now he’s back home in Colorado, trying to cope with his grief and guilt.
Tara knows that her chances of being allowed to adopt baby Laura go up if she has a husband, so she makes Isaac a proposition: if he marries her and helps her adopt Laura, she’ll care for his children, keep his house, and give him twenty thousand dollars.
Isaac loves the baby. Tara loves Isaac’s children. Isaac and Tara quickly fall in love with each other, as well. Here’s the obstacle: Tara has ethical objections to the state’s regulation of midwifery, so she refuses to get licensed, which means that she’s practicing illegally in the state of Colorado. Isaac isn’t keen on home birth, since his wife died in childbirth, but he is willing to marry and support Tara if she gets licensed. He understandably thinks it would be bad for his kids if his new wife were to be thrown in prison.
That’s it. That’s the conflict. When Isaac insists that she get a license, Tara gets really nasty. She says, “You obviously think I come cheap.” She tells him that if she compromises, she will lose a vital part of herself. She tells him that he doesn’t love her, he just wants to change her. By the end of the book she’s comparing Isaac to her rapists.
I’ll be frank: I don’t get it. Tara never makes me understand her passionate refusal to get a license – she only says that the government shouldn’t interfere with midwifery and that word of mouth is the best regulation. Word of mouth is how I found a locksmith, and now my car doors will never lock again. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but why shouldn’t the state require that midwives demonstrate some basic understanding of what they’re doing? Why is that so horrible that Tara would risk losing the man she loves, the baby she adores, her vocation, and her freedom?
In the first half of the book, the point of view nervously jerks from one character to another, several times per page, so that more than once I had to stop and backtrack in order to figure out who was thinking what about whom. This makes it hard to understand anyone’s motivations.
Things happen that you would expect to happen to people who kidnap babies, and both Tara and Isaac experience renewed grief and anguish. Although this book does have a HEA ending in the sense that the hero and the heroine do marry, they’re both so angst-ridden that it seems impossible for them to ever be happy. The author even manages to make their lovemaking seem like emotional torment.
Talking About My Baby is peopled by unusual characters and is filled with weighty ethical issues, including adoption, traditional versus established medicine, and post traumatic stress syndrome. But the heroine’s motivations were baffling, and the tragedy so outweighs the joy in Tara’s relationship with Isaac that the end result is simply depressing.
If you’re intrigued by the issues raised in Talking About My Baby, I recommend that you skip it and instead check out The Bean Trees and its sequel, Pigs In Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. These two books deal with a similar premise in a much more enjoyable and thought-provoking way.