When I first started reading THE ROOM LIT BY ROSES: A Journal of Pregnancy and Birth by Carole Maso, I felt like it was pretentious and a little too poetic for me, filled with references to obscure poets and saints and metaphors about ova and such. But as I got farther into the adventure of her pregnancy, my face was completely soaked with tears of understanding and appreciation for the way in which she put the whole wonder of birth into perspective --- of course, I am seven months pregnant and I cry a lot about the beauty of my experience anyway, but I guarantee that anyone who has any respect for the creation of life will have the same reaction to this book.
Written while she was working on other projects, THE ROOM LIT BY ROSES follows Maso through the all-too-familiar terrain of fears and joys that accompany even the most easygoing pregnancy. There is an alertness in her work that is halted only by her overwhelming need to constantly remember that death is the mirror-image of creation and that one day her baby "will die because of me." The fact that anything born must die is a given for us humans, but here it seems like Maso, who is without the requisite bodily pains that come with most pregnancies, is filling the space where her morning sickness isn't with endless recriminations toward those who have passed from her life and overbearing treatises on death. Maybe, again, I resent this mention of death because I, myself, am so filled with safely harbored musings about life being so abundant in my realm --- I don't know. But I felt like it was the only drowning note in what is otherwise a beautifully buoyant book about life.
The birth of her child and its aftermath is poignant for its dipping into the surreality of the whole endeavor and reality of this tiny person Maso has been waiting for, and dreading, for nine months. THE ROOM LIT BY ROSES is one woman's heartfelt account of one of life's greatest moments and can be shared by those who have experienced it and those who haven't with the same degree of excitement and bittersweet wonder.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 14, 2000