Everything Here is Under Control – Adrian

Photo Credit: emilyadrianbooks.com

“We’re still too cute about all the stuff that happens to our bodies,” says Michelle Wolf in Joke Show, her latest stand up. “We’ve gotta stop being cute. Like, when we have a baby, we say it’s a miracle–stop it!” Having a baby, Wolf asserts, is “a natural disaster,” arguing that women will never get the healthcare and respect we deserve unless we’re brutally honest about our experiences.

Enter Emily Adrian’s latest novel, Everything Here is Under Control. This book should be required reading for the strangers at the grocery store who look at your two-week old baby and ask, “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” Or the endless stream of middle aged men who declare, “You’ve got your hands full!” as you wrangle both of your children to the parking lot.

In Adrian’s hands, the hazy, mostly terrifying early postpartum weeks are anything but cute.

Amanda, a first-time mom living in New York, visits her Ohio hometown and shows up on her friend’s doorstep, partly out of desperation, but also drawn back to this friend, at whose birth she was present years prior, divulging unresolved tensions and revealing tender spots in their relationship.

Adrian’s novel tackles the animal ugliness of facing three in the morning with a screaming infant. It tells of the bittersweet encounters of returning to your hometown. Most significantly, it describes the agitating conflicts of lifelong friendship, as well as its enduring intimacies.

Recently, I struck up a conversation via text message with a new mother, someone I had not spoken to since high school. My intention was to serve as a beacon of hope in the wilderness of early motherhood. Her baby is a mere two weeks old. Her assessment: “the nights are so long and lonely.” My response: “Those lonely nights are literally the worst.”

The nights are lonely and the emotions are frightening. Why is it that we expose ourselves to the natural disaster of motherhood?

A possible answer from Adrian’s novel: “I don’t remember. All I know is that I cannot un-have him, and I have never, for a single moment, wished I could.”

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for the advance copy of this title.

Everything Here is Under Control by Emily Adrian

Fiction — Blackstone Publishing

Publication Date: 28 July 2020

The Harpy – Megan Hunter

Photo Credit: Grove Atlantic

There is a moment in Megan Hunter’s The Harpy when the narrator, a work-at-home mom in her 30s, hears someone say her name: “Mrs. Stevenson,” they call repeatedly. As she listens, the narrative abruptly shifts perspective. An omniscient narrator takes over, rendering Mrs. Stevenson as the object. A woman sits in a room, hearing herself be named. This shift, this sudden loss of control is a theme at the heart of The Harpy.

In this forthcoming novella, it is the loss of self to the role of wife and mother that directs the action and permeates the mental states of the characters. The mother’s loss of agency is palpable here.

Lucy Stevenson, mother, wife, writer, neighbor, are pieces of a self that become molded, stretched, and rearranged. “Like dough,” Hunter writes at one point, emphasizing the malleability of the self, of who we are and what we’ve done. Even the relationship with her husband feels “borderless,” their selves seeping out and into each other. “Mrs. Stevenson” is a woman “who would never be a real person again.” Unresolved trauma from her childbirth and the hint of a sexual assault in her young adulthood, combined with a sense of feeling “invisible” form Lucy’s mental state, compel her to plead with an imaginary harpy to “get the ones who hurt me.”

Despite the straightforward labels that Lucy wears, she is insistent that she not become the cliche of any of them. When she discovers her husband’s affair, she dreads playing out “those TV shows,” narratives “that seemed to have greater texture than my own existence.” In her struggle to not perform the expected routine, to not “say all the things we’d both seen,” she instead finds herself pushing the categories of herself away, finding that she is becoming the self that she was destined to become.

Hunter’s slow-burning novella will pull readers into the tempting glow of its relatable and tangible domestic sketches, and then shock them with its intensity.

Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the advance copy of this title.

The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Fiction – Grove Atlantic, Grove Press

Publication date: 13 November 2020