Go on. Read at least 10 pages of Kerry Reichs‘ newest book What You Wish For with a dry eye. I dare you. Because in addition to knowing exactly how to tug on our heartstrings, Reichs is also really, REALLY smart. She knows not only everything about pregnancy, but also everything about trying to get pregnant, not being able to get pregnant, IVF, reproductive health, reproductive rights, cancer and cancer treatments. Oh, and relationships. And local government.
It’s very impressive.
WYWF follows the travails of five people – Dimple, Eva, Wyatt, Andy and Maryn – in varying stages of the reproductive journey. Or not, as the case may be. Dimple has been a successful actress all her life, but now she’s ready for something more–in the form of a baby. Eva has no interest in children, while her cousin Wyatt has all the interest in the world. And then there’s Maryn – strong, bold, beautiful Maryn – who’s in a longstanding battle with her drippy ex-husband Andy over custody of some eggs the couple had frozen while Maryn was getting treatment for cancer.
I know, right? Don’t we all fall somewhere along this spectrum?
I mean, hopefully without all the pain and suffering, but you get the idea.
I had the chance to ask Kerry some questions about What You Wish For. No surprise – she’s just as whip-smart and interesting as I expected.
Q: Ok, so I have to ask about your background, because…seriously? Having a baby is complicated and you somehow manage to tackle not only all of the emotion, but also all of the medical stuff. In great detail. Oh, and also cancer. What brought you to What You Wish For?
A: As a single mother, I believe we do a disservice to our children to suggest that there is an “ideal” family. The majority no longer equates to a male-female heterosexual couple having children without medical assistance. People adopt. People rely on IVF, donor eggs and surrogates. Single parents are raising children. Same-sex couples are raising children. Bi-racial couples are raising children. I receive at least one email a week from women exploring the option of having children on their own. The modern family is changing. While it’s filtering into contemporary culture through shows like “Modern Family” and “New Normal”, universal acceptance is slow. I hope that my characters’ stories can help shake loose some of the judgments on what makes a family healthy. The less kids mourn the phantom family, or “real parents”, they don’t have, the more they can thrive in an environment that may be as nurturing and loving as it is unconventional.
Q: Your own mother is Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan books, which in turn inspired the TV series “Bones.” I basically talk to my mom nonstop about her experience with family and kids etc etc etc. Did you seek input from your mom at all when writing What You Wish For? How have you approached parenting differently? Similarly?
A: It’s a challenging experience entering a field where your parent is well established, but we write in such different genres, our books don’t really beg comparison. People who know us both say we have a similar sense of humor. My mother was incredibly supportive of my choice to leave the law (in my lawyer father’s case I suspect it was more of an inspired silence), and eager to help. But, hey, I’m a daughter, and a stubborn person. I was determined to succeed solo. So, I imposed a “no sharing” rule on my first manuscript until after it was sold. It sort of stuck. So, while we love to tour together (in September we’ll be hitting New York, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston on joint book tour), we don’t trade manuscripts. We will pick each other’s brain for just the right word. One day, maybe I’ll give in to her pestering to put a dead body in my books so we can collaborate!
Q: So obviously Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent Atlantic article about having it all has made a maaaaaaajjjjooooorrrr splash. As a new mother yourself – not to mention a successful author – and lawyer – any thoughts?
A: She stole my title! Literally, I’m working on an article that had previously been called “You Can’t Have It All”! It’s the counterpoint to a lot of the junk I’ve read encouraging women to settle early so they don’t end up alone. I respectfully disagree – and this book is all about that. There are lots of roads to family, and fulfillment, for women. I have three professions: writer, mother, house administrator. The only way to make it work is not to strive for perfection. I focus on the big stuff, recognizing that something will have to slide. When my son comes in for a hug or to bang on my computer keys, I stop and enjoy the moment. On a sunny day, we might walk to the zoo. Then it’s a late night writing for mom, to recoup the time. The focus isn’t as laser, and I have to backspace over lots of zxxksflsdjkghls;dnv/fbgklsg^nwklFH`qrgj from my “helper,” but when I consider that I grew a human brain from scratch in nine months, I figure the novel will come, even with interruptions. Does being a mother make me a less successful professional? Sure it does. But it’s a trade I’ll take. You can’t really have it all, where you succeed perfectly in every category, but, as Dimple says in the book, you can have enough
Q: Are you a Dimple, an Eva, or a Maryn? Or a Wyatt? Or – god forbid – an Andy?
A: The expected answer is Dimple, having myself wrestled with the same, difficult decision to become a single mother by choice. But in reality, it’s Wyatt. I became pregnant while writing this book, and my locus shifted from the threat of childlessness hanging over Dimple, to the anxiety Wyatt felt facing down single parenthood. His experience in Target was my experience. I agonized over my registry, convinced that if I selected the wrong bottle my child would never go to college and it would be all my fault. I had to work hard to do justice to the starkness of Dimple’s fear from the smugness of pregnancy. There were fears, of course, as every mother knows, but nothing like the urgent dread of being near forty and childless. It was important for me to get it right, because there are legion of women out there that have otherwise completely fulfilling lives but for the pressure of their biological clocks. What was most relatable about Dimple was the fact that other than not having children, she was successful and content.