Known for her line of baby-naming books as well as numerous light-and-fluffy novels and a witty “How Not To” about growing old gracefully (HOW NOT TO ACT OLD), bestselling author Pamela Redmond has suddenly switched gears to pen a book that’s serious to its core. Told from three different interlinked characters’ perspectives, THE POSSIBILITY OF YOU tackles the myriad questions women face regarding pregnancy --- whether or not to have children, give them up for adoption, or abort them. As one might suspect with any book of this ilk, there is much hand-wringing and soul-searching to be had, and, as in life, not everything --- or everyone --- turns out okay in the end, especially the children.
"It’s tempting to spill the beans about the rest of the book as what’s been covered here merely hints at the heart of the full story. But to do so would be to spoil Redmond’s carefully crafted puzzle."
The story opens in the present day, as Cait --- an attractive 30-something freelance writer with no real home base, and Martin --- a late 40s, roguishly handsome reporter on assignment for the New York Times, meet while covering a story on the disappearance of a five-year-old boy. Despite the ring on Martin’s finger, Cait and Martin’s forbidden attraction quickly evolves into a raunchy one-night-stand, leaving both parties feeling bewildered but sufficiently smitten. Upon returning to New York, they vow to go their separate ways --- Martin, back to his wife and family; Cait, off to Africa to pursue another story lead --- until the inevitable happens: Cait learns she’s unexpectedly pregnant.
Meanwhile, it’s 1976. Nineteen-year-old Billie and Jupe --- her African-American, closeted-gay, soon-to-be semi-boyfriend, best-friend --- are cleaning out her newly-deceased deadbeat father’s rental cottage in San Francisco when Billie stumbles upon a box of old letters stuffed under a bed. Upon closer inspection, she discovers they’re from her long-lost grandmother whom her father had been estranged from since he was a boy. Curious and with no other viable alternative, Billie and Jupe hatch a plan to head to New York. While Jupe is heading home to his family in Brooklyn to prepare for the MCATs, Billie is banking that her newfound extraordinarily wealthy grandmother can not only give her a cushy place to stay, but provide her with answers to a long list of unanswered questions about their shared history.
Cut to 1916. Bridget, a sassy and spirited Irish live-in nanny, is bogged down with problems. After an ill-advised outing to the beach with her young charge Floyd, she watches helplessly as he falls ill with polio and eventually dies. Feeling partially responsible, Bridget agrees to stay on at the large townhouse on East 64th Street in order to help Floyd’s mother, Maude, recover. But weeks turn into months, and despite her burgeoning romance with her one-day-soon fiancé George, Bridget commits to taking care of Maude for the long-haul.
As each storyline progresses in time, it becomes all too clear that these three women, while mired in very different circumstances, are faced with eerily similar dilemmas. Cait is not sure she wants to keep the fetus growing inside her without finding her birth mother and getting closure regarding her own adoption, not to mention the fact that the baby’s father is technically still a married man. After sleeping with Jupe one too many times unprotected, Billie is shocked to find he wants nothing to do with her or his baby after she tells him she’s pregnant. And Bridget? Yep, she’s “with child” too, as her trip to the underground clinic got raided by the police before she had a chance to pick up birth control.
Do these three keep their respective babies? Do they give them up for adoption? Or do they choose to abort? Of course, you’ll have to read the book to find out. In the end, they’re all asking themselves the same questions: “Would her own child sit across from her one day, asking why she’d done or not done the things she was doing right now? Would her child really want to know that she’d contemplated having an abortion, that she’d been ambivalent at best about going ahead with the pregnancy…. Or did we only want to believe, any of us, that we were longed for, that we were welcomed, that we were loved and cherished, even before we became ourselves?”
As with most inter-generational novels, there’s a reason why these three leading ladies are connected. So, too, there are multi-layered side stories involving supporting characters like Maude, Martin, and Cait’s adoptive mother Sally to needle out and sort through. It’s tempting to spill the beans about the rest of the book as what’s been covered here merely hints at the heart of the full story. But to do so would be to spoil Redmond’s carefully crafted puzzle. THE POSSIBILITY OF YOU is most definitely a women’s book about women’s issues written in a style most suitable for female readers. And while most of these women will be able to connect the dots before the characters do, having their suspicions confirmed will feel just as rewarding.
Reviewed by Alexis Burling on February 27, 2012