Review: Nine Months by Paula Bomer

 

Title: Nine Months

Author: Paula Bomer

Published: Soho Press August 2012

Synopsis: In Paula Bomer’s bold, unapologetic debut novel, a pregnant mother and wife abandons her family in search of an identity that is hers alone after she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant for the third time. She does everything a pregnant mother shouldn’t do—engaging in casual sex, drinking beer, and smoking weed—as she attempts to reclaim her sidelined career as an artist. A lacerating response to the culture of mommy blogs, helicopter parents, and “parental correctness” as well as an unflinching look at the choices women face when trying to balance art and family. Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on August 20, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Soho Press/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Nine Months is an audacious novel that explores the difficult journey of a woman who is struggling to balance her need for individuality with motherhood. Sonia was relieved to find that mothering was becoming a little easier as her two young sons began to gain independence. However her dreams of reclaiming the ambitions she held before their birth is shattered when she discovers she is pregnant again. Ruling out an abortion, Sonia attempts to reconcile the impending birth with her feelings of loss and frustration but as her due date draws closer, the temptation to escape the pressure proves too strong. Abandoning her husband and children, Sonia withdraws the family’s savings and sets off on a wild cross country road trip in search of the woman she once was.

Self absorbed, petty and vulgar it’s easy to judge Sonia for her impetuous actions. However, I think there are very few mothers, who in those first hellish months of motherhood, have not fleetingly thought about escaping their infants incessant demands or at least briefly mourned the carefree, autonomous life they led before parenthood. Bomer magnifies those doubts and longings, giving her character permission to both feel and act on them without censoring herself. Sonia’s wild escape is response to depression, desperation and frustration, though of course she can’t leave behind the child in her womb. Instead she does her best to pretend it is either not there or somehow separate from her.
It’s worth noting that Sonia’s debauchery only consists of a handful of incidents. She indulges in only one anonymous sex encounter and just two hits off a joint, though she drinks (mainly beer) fairly freely. However these single acts are enough to likely condemn her in popular opinion, even by those who may have sympathised with her need to escape. Neither is Sonia all ‘bad’, there are moments of ambivalence and reflection that stir empathy and allow the reader to glimpse her less hormone crazed identity.
While it seems likely to me that Sonia is suffering from severe pre partum depression (which affects 10-15% of women), particularly since its is noted that in her previous pregnancies she experienced strong mood swings and high anxiety, there are no clear signs that Bomer wrote Sonia with that affliction at her core. Perhaps it is simply wishful thinking on my part, since I do find Sonia’s behaviour repugnant in the main, though I am not without empathy for her.

The first person point of view of Nine Months is immediate and raw. Descriptions are often crude and those offended by explicit content and language will want to steer clear of this novel. The pace is surprisingly brisk, I didn’t want to put it down, engrossed by Sonia’s emotional journey.

Confronting, seditious and original Nine Months is a compelling novel. I expect opinions of the novel will be divisive among its readership. Personally, I think Bomer is brave in exposing a rarely acknowledged aspect of pregnancy and motherhood.

 

Available to Purchase

@Soho Press I @Amazon I @Book Depository

 

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelrainsnow
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 11:20:29

    This is one I would actually love to read….I have dealt with mothers afflicted with various disorders who act out when depressed or just because they have an impulse disorder. While this story sounds like there’s a lot more going on, I wouldn’t be surprised if some disorder is at the root of her behavior.

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  2. Leeswammes
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 17:29:02

    What a great review, Shelleyrae! I was captivated, loved to read about the book and your thoughts about it.

    I almost “picked up” this book from Netgalley but I had so much to read already that I decided against it. I also thought that maybe this book would be much over the top and I would not want to learn about all of Sonia’s bad behavior. But reading your review it seems that there isn’t all that much bad behavior. I hope to read the book when my schedule is a little lighter.

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  3. Mirjam
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 20:19:11

    The idea behind the book is quite interesting, but I’m not sure I could get over her offputting behaviour and feel some empathy. I’m glad you enjoyed it though!

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Aug 23, 2012 @ 09:35:30

      It’s definitely not for everyone Mirjam and I think a bit of distance from those infant and toddlerhood years is best 🙂

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  4. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 18:17:46

    I think this one would be an interesting read for me, given that I’ll be probably looking at motherhood in a couple of years. To be honest, I suspect I’d identify with Sheila’s need to reclaim her body: the societal possessiveness I’ve seen over pregnant women’s bodies chills be, quite frankly. I’ve seen people freak out over eating salad and self-flagellate themselves over mayonnaise. I do often feel that pregnancy is one of the few remaining channels through which women’s behaviour can be moderated and regulated, and that society is horribly condemnatory in the way it does so. It’s quite worrisome, honestly, the way that pregnant women are scrutinised and judged–and that so much guilt can result.

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