What happens when the urge to have a baby doesn't line up nicely with being in the right place in life to become pregnant or with a person's fertility or so many of the other reasons that might keep a person from having a baby? And what about a person who truly doesn't want to have a child? There's much written about the insistant tick-tock of the biological clock but what happens when people cannot or choose not to heed that pull? Kerry Reichs' newest novel What You Wish For takes three women and one man who are all at a crossroads in their lives with regards to having children and follows them down the path of their deepest desire.
Dimple is an actress who is weighing her options. She's getting older and knows her time to have a baby is running out. What she doesn't know is whether or not her career is more important to her than her deferred dream of being a mother. Eva is single and a very successful LA agent who knows that she never wants to have children. She feels that she and her siblings turned her mother from an exciting and carefree woman into a depressed and wrung-out, colorless soul. But whenever she meets men, they assume that she will eventually change her mind about children. Maryn beat breast cancer but lost her fertility in the battle. That she and her husband frozen some viable embryos before her treatments should mean that she has a chance at motherhood except for the fact that she and Andy are no longer married and he is unwilling to let her use the embryos. And Wyatt, the high school principal wants a baby so badly he's willing to pay a surrogate since there's no one else on his romantic horizon. He'll have to face prejudice and suspicion about his desire simply because he's an unattached straight man.
Set in the high stakes world of tv, movies, politics, and Hollywood, the novel is narrated in third person focused on each member of the ensemble cast in short, staccato chapters. Initially, the characters are completely unconnected, linked only by their desires regarding babies but eventually all of the various story lines do converge. Maryn waffles on whether or not she should go ahead and have a baby but when she meets a hot shot director who may or may not want her to star in his latest movie, she puts her desire on the back burner, especially once they pair up as more than simply director and actress. Eva's nasty bubble-headed client Daisy is the other actress up for the role and her job depends on Daisy getting the job so she starts keeping close tabs on the competition, namely Dimple. Meanwhile Maryn, whose company transports horses across the country for very wealthy clients, is locked in a legal battle with her ex, Andy, over the frozen embryos. His new wife, the very ambitious Summer, pushes him to run for elected office, at which point the fate of the embryos becomes a political hot button and rising scandal. Wyatt, Eva's cousin and who has been disappointed at almost every turn in his quest for a child, meets Maryn and helps her when one of the horses she's transported has an emergency and the two of them end up becoming friends.
The drama of relationships, careers, and the pressure of wanting or not wanting a baby is at the forefront of each of the characters' stories. Although this sounds like chick lit about having babies, it is much more serious than that would imply, taking on moral and political implications, the ethics of medical intervention, and the choice of whether or not to ever bear children. The ways in which each character's life plays out, against the backdrop of Hollywood and the unreality of LA, are unusual but realistic. The novel is packed with wanting and feeling and deep emotion. Reichs has done a good job of explaining each characters' motivation and not tarring anyone as completely good or bad, even when their decisions hurt others around them. She's captured the complexity of longing and the hesitation to be found even in certainty. The struggle between reality and what you wish for weaves through all of the characters' lives, even after they've individually settled on their course, deciding what their families might look like in the future. Initially the short chapters made the book hard to follow, especially as the characters' connections to each other were not yet explained but eventually they worked in its favor, moving each story ahead quickly and decisively. And in the end, the various plot lines are all resolved, some better than expected, some worse, as is the way of the real world.
Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book for review.