Pregnancy and abortion have been part of the human experience for eons. Unfortunately, they have been turned into cultural, religious, or political pawns for those in power to mold society as they see fit.
Looking for Jane: A Novel, by Heather Marshall, was published this month. The story takes place in three timelines that eventually intertwine. In the early 1960s, Evelyn is an unwed pregnant teenage girl. She has been sent to a “home” to prepare for the birth of her child. Once she gives birth, she will return to her family as if nothing has happened. A decade later, she is a doctor and part of an underground network to provide safe abortions.
In 1980, Nancy makes two earth-shattering discoveries. The first is that she was adopted. The second is that she is pregnant and knows that she is not ready to be a parent. Without no one to turn to, she finds the Janes. After her procedure is done by Evelyn, she joins the group. But while is living a double life, her secrets weigh on her.
In 2017, Angela is a bookstore owner in Toronto. While she and her wife are desperately trying to get pregnant, she discovers a letter that opens the door to a decades-old mystery.
I loved this book. It was engaging, entertaining, and to be frank, it made me angry. Granted, drama makes for good fiction. But the real women’s stories behind the novel shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. It is a reminder that Roe v. Wade and other similar legalization is still a necessity.
Unlike last year’s Call Jane, the legal and medical danger in Evelyn and Nancy’s time is part and parcel of their experience. What the author does successfully ensure all of her protagonists have equal weight within the narrative. It is difficult to balance a tale of this kind with two storylines. Three is asking for trouble if it is not done properly. Thankfully, Marshall succeeds.
If nothing else, it is a reminder of how far we have come and how far we need to go.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Looking for Jane: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.