Book reviews

Gregory Mayo’s Almost Daddy: The Forgotten Story (2023)

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Pro-abortion zealots and feminists who despise men will try to ban this novel for giving yet another voice to the person most neglected in any abortion choice: the father.

It is to Gregory Mayo’s credit that he can admit in the Acknowledgements not only that “I have my own abortion story”, but also that “the story in this book is fiction” (303), thus generalizing his experience to reach the “fathers [who] have been the forgotten ones in the abortion story” and who, since “there have been over 62,000,000 abortions in the U.S. alone since 1973”, constitute “a lot of hurting dads” (306).

The reader is immediately struck with the powerlessness of Ben, the main character, in the opening pages where he is described being on the outside (literally) of the abortion business where his girlfriend will abort the child whom they conceived.  Ben’s powerlessness is heartbreakingly expressed in a parallelism which young men in his situation must feel all the time: “This was not where he expected to be” (1).

About fifty pages later, Ben’s helplessness repeats when another sexual partner phones him merely to assert her right to kill the unborn child; his reaction (screaming) does nothing to stop that mother from arranging to kill the child.

About a hundred pages after that, Ben’s helplessness is demonstrated yet again when he sees the body of a miscarried child whom he conceived with another lover.  This time, however, the helplessness is even more pronounced; the miscarried child is someone whom his lover, at least, wanted since she expressed sorrow over the loss of the child.

Despite these episodes which illustrate how helpless a father is when faced with the death of an unborn child, whether he or she is killed in an abortion or miscarried, the reader cannot sympathize with the sexually promiscuous Ben. Granted, he may be a typical secular American teenager finishing high school at the beginning of the novel, but one would think that by the ripe old age of 23 (the last stated age provided by the author nearly two-thirds of the way through the work), Ben would have learned that his numerous fornications would have educated him enough to know that immoral sex is not the same as the moral sex that a couple can enjoy with each other when they are in a covenant relationship called marriage.

I mean, really now, can Ben be that stupid as to not realize that using multiple women as his sex objects could expose him to the risk of being a father whose child would be aborted if the mother thought she had a right to kill the child herself?

Apparently, Ben is that stupid.

Ben’s first fornication occurs with Abby, the aborted mother.  When he learns that Abby had sex with his best friend while he was working far away from home, Ben has sex with Jenny, a server at a diner—and not merely for a one-night stand: “Ben found his way to Jenny’s each night” (92).  Ben then commits adultery with Melinda, who discloses after the casual sex that she is a married woman.  Ben’s fornication with another live-in lover, Carrie, becomes obvious when she is late with her period.  (Although her pregnancy test is negative, they discover that she was indeed pregnant, but miscarried the child.)

Ben’s fornication doesn’t end with what seems like the definitive arrangement  of having had a live-in lover: “After a short stint on the dance floor, they walked across the street to Ben’s room.  The next morning Ben awoke to the sound of Julie getting her things together” (171).  A few pages later, another fornication is denoted in a similarly-worded transition: Ben and Joanne (Jo) “walked upstairs to Ben’s efficiency.  The next morning [….]” (183).  The author must like such a transition, glossing over Ben’s sexual activity, since he uses it repeatedly.  For example, Ben must have had sex with Erica, because the narrator skips from the initial hook-up to the time after a night of illicit sexuality: “When he woke up” (199).  Erica will later abort the child.

Fortunately, albeit late in the narration, Ben, who is purported to be intelligent (he reads sophisticated philosophical books), does speculate on why his many romantic episodes fail: “An interesting young lady would start up a conversation, they would spend a couple of evenings together, and then she was gone” (188).

Ben becomes a somewhat attractive character only in the last third of the book, although his likeability is challenging to recognize since the last hundred pages are more didactic and preachy than meaningful prose.  The reader, especially the male reader, can cheer Ben when he seeks and finds comfort in the company of other men who are fathers of aborted children, especially men who have a religious foundation for their lives.  Unfortunately, Ben remains at the beginner level of faith; except for one Catholic buddy, Ben’s friends are Protestant Christians and reject sacramental Christianity. 

Ah, yes…forget the crass depictions of immature males in man caves, boozing it up, talking shit or merely talking dirty.  Ben’s world is male bonding at its sanitized, Protestant Christian best.

These initial comments aside, the novel has merit, which can be appreciated when at least three of the questions of right-to-life literary theory are applied to the work.

First, one must conclude that the novel supports the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good which is priceless by what the novel says about the absence of that philosophical good.  For example, the narrator concludes after the abortion that “The weight of indescribable loss hung over them as did a sense of finality.  It was done and could not be undone” (7).

Second, the literary work respects heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family.  This affirmation of the normalcy of human life is pronounced, especially since Ben comes from a severely broken family.  Ben’s parents were divorced, and his father “was long gone, presumably lost in a bottle somewhere” (9).  His stepfather, who is separated from his mother, thinks it’s fine for Abby to abort someone who would be his grandchild.

Worse, Ben’s religious knowledge is paltry.  He asks his friends in the Almost Daddy group of fathers who have suffered abortion a ridiculously ignorant question about Jesus, one which cannot be cited as ironic or a feeble attempt at humor: “So you’re telling me that all these religions and degrees [sic] and churches are all about this dude who preached for three years?” (240).

Despite these negative influences, Ben realizes that his many one-night stands are just that, mere nights of loss of sexual self-control.  No wonder, then, that the novel ends with heterosexual normativity affirmed, even though the traditional way of proposing to one’s beloved which Ben follows would make most male readers cringe, relegating the method to sentimental hogwash, while female readers would squeal with delight, most likely muttering something banal like “Aw…how cute!”  (Like most men, I reserve kneeling for the consecration at Mass, not for someone who is equal to me in the sacrament of matrimony.  But I digress…)

Third, the reader can affirm that the literary work comports with the view that unborn human life has an inherent right to exist.  Granted, several characters mouth the usual tired dehumanizing expressions of anti-life philosophy.  Lance, his best friend, claims that the unborn baby “was just growing tissue.  It wasn’t a baby yet” (24).  Even Abby thinks the unborn child “was just a lump of cells” (31).  In contrast, Ben affirms that “A baby was made by me and Abby, and that baby is now dead, and I didn’t do anything to stop it” (24).

Ben’s life-affirming sense, in contrast, remains consistent throughout the novel.  Although the narrator uses a dehumanizing term to refer to a miscarried child (“something” instead of “someone”) and to an aborted baby (“that” instead of “who”), the diction error could be excused since the overall idea expresses Ben’s life-affirming belief: “He tried to rectify the idea that a child lost to miscarriage was something to mourn, but a child at the same ‘age’ that was aborted was not even considered a human” (206; internal quotes in original).

Despite these positive points, the novel has several flaws, including the philosophical mistake of the title, stylistic problems, and several grammar matters.

While it should not register as a fatal flaw on the level of a hamartia in Ben’s character, the title is objectionable since, although it reflects common linguistic ignorance, it distorts biological reality.  Ordinary people could exclaim “it’s a boy!” and still affirm that the unborn child over whom they rejoice is a gendered human being, the pronoun “it” being merely a casual and quick way to express not only love for the child him- or herself, but also one’s paternity or maternity.

Ben, however, should have realized that he is not “almost” a father of several unborn children whom his lovers killed, but that he was in fact a father; “almost” would be accurate only if his sperm cell did not achieve fertilization.

The fatal flaw of the title, therefore, may simply be relegated to the author wanting to reach people on their level of ignorance, hoping to persuade them of the humanity of the unborn child by the novel’s action and commentary.

Stylistically, the novel would benefit from a revision in some areas.  First, the euphemisms used to express the sexual activity of Ben and his multiple lovers may appeal to an audience which has a puritanical view of sex.  Modern readers, however, expect to see some illustration of the contemporary sexual experiences of a teenager and, as the years pass, a young man who has no hesitation to bang any female he casually meets.

Thus, the technique of sliding from Ben meeting a woman whom he will use for his sexual gratification to “The next morning” (171 and 183) hides not only the details of Ben’s fornication, but also the circumstances which could obviate his culpability for that sin.  (This fine distinction may be lost on an author who apparently is writing for a “Christian”, that is, Protestant Christian, audience; Byzantine, Catholic, and Orthodox readers have a more comprehensive view of sexuality in fiction as a vibrant expression of reality.)

In fact, the euphemisms used to hide the characters’ sexual experiences contrast starkly with other phrases which a deconstructionist literary critic would have a proverbial field day in exploring.  The irony and double entendre in the following lines would make any contemporary and worldly student of literature either smirk fiercely or laugh uproariously: a neon sign for a bar named Cactus Rose whose active letters were “actus R se” (85); Ben telling Jenny that “It was my good pleasure getting to know you” (95); “Your load is ready” referring to a bucket of flooring mix, but a possible vulgar reference to Ben’s quantity of sperm (115); or the narrator casually affirming at novel’s end that Ben and Carrie “only made it out of the cabin to eat supper a couple of times” on their honeymoon (295).

Another stylistic problem involves the violation of a cardinal rule of writing: showing, not telling.  For example, this paragraph which tells the reader what happened might have worked better if it showed the anger which it tries to express:

One Saturday, in the middle of another argument about nothing in particular, Carrie ordered Ben to get out.  Ben laughed.  It wasn’t a joke.  She yelled and cussed and started throwing random objects from the kitchen at him.  Ben had enough.  (156)

Similarly, this paragraph is needless or, if there is some information which must be conveyed, could be reduced to a few words:

After getting and cashing his final check and closing his bank account, Ben filled up the truck and brushed his teeth in the parking lot of the gas station.  He used part of a bottle of water to rinse.  Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, Ben shut the truck door and started the engine.  (159)

Finally, several grammar and diction errors interfere with a mellifluous reading.  For example, capitalization of common nouns is not necessary in direct address, as in “So just start talking, Brother”, the last term not being used as a title (23).  Likewise, the instances of incorrect pronouns in a series used after a preposition are jarring.  While errors of this category may usually indicate that the characters speaking the phrase are ignorant, neither Carrie saying “for Shelley and I” (119) nor Ben saying “with her and I” (132) are credible since both are supposed to be intelligent people.  Many other similar errors should be corrected in a future edition.

I would recommend Mayo’s novel for high school and college students and for men in study groups designed to help them with their grief on having lost an unborn child to abortion.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:

Book reviews

Thomas F. Powers’ American Multiculturalism and the Anti-Discrimination Regime: The Challenge to Liberal Pluralism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2023)

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Packed with substantial endnotes and an extensive bibliography, thus making his work approachable to both students and ordinary citizens trying to understand contemporary American political culture, Powers makes a compelling argument regarding the anti-discrimination regime’s challenges to traditional liberalism.  He moves from a discussion of multiculturalism as developed in teacher education, to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the preeminent American challenge to traditional liberalism), to postmodernism’s efforts to expand the categories of persons and groups who have been discriminated against, to the recent expansion of social protest by the woke movement.

Powers employs a variety of definitional methods to engage his reader.  For example, his denotation of “liberalism”, though written as a stipulative one, comports with the standard definition of the term: “Liberalism, as I use the term, refers to the extremely influential modern and contemporary view of political life that begins and ends with some defining notion of individual rights and freedom, as well as some view, therefore, of the importance of ‘limited’ government” (18; internal quotes in original).

An interesting use of negation occurs in the definition of “multiculturalism”, which “does not have anything to do with diversity.  Its only important meaning, [is] a simple, powerful, unified political meaning rooted in the civil rights revolution” (22).

The definition of “anti-discrimination”, the major concept of the work, in contrast, involves scouring a paragraph to determine its attributes.  Anti-discrimination “is a bold and wide-ranging program of moral reform [whose] moral in question is a simple one: discrimination is unjust, an evil heretofore tolerated but no more”; this “massive political project” involves a “politics [which] has been and continues to be a radical force” (279).

Other terms which are now identified with the new political order, “woke” for example, are not as clearly defined, although, to his credit, Powers explains that “This general phenomenon (activist-led social institution-building)” and “woke capitalism” help the reader to understand how deeply the anti-discrimination regime has penetrated ordinary life (83; parentheses in original).

Both students and faculty will appreciate Powers’ claims, some of which, albeit simply stated, can generate hours of class discussion and, hopefully, trenchant student writing on serious topics.  “Anti-discrimination is the cause of multiculturalism, not the other way around” (13) or “The perspective of liberal pluralism is a moral one that aims above all at finding social peace among people with contradictory viewpoints and conflicting interests” (206) are relatively innocuous.

Claims such as:

“As a demand for justice formalized in group representation schemes, inclusion means forever reliving the pain of the past and affirming group mistrust for the present and future” (262),

“Anti-discrimination seems unable fully to escape the hold of its necessarily negative starting point.  There does not seem to be any important place in it for transcending the plane on which it fights against evil; there is no important place for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for integration even” (272), or

“today, merit and personal responsibility are said to represent the language of privilege, a mask for hidden or implicit bias, a cover for racism” (284),

however, would rile any philosopher or theologian and agitate American students to the point that they must eschew slogans learned from woke professors and use critical thinking skills to formulate their moral positions.  These are tasks which Powers would approve as a counter to an inherent negative characteristic of the new politics, as he suggested in a litotes whose humor one could easily miss: “Anti-discrimination morality is thus not only a spirited morality but a somewhat angry morality, though its defenders would insist that it has earned the right to its anger” (267).

Powers’ writing style contributes to the readability of the volume.  For example, the paragraphs built on “that” and “it” parallelisms (5-6) and parallel verbs (45) and the point-counterpoint method contrasting the morality of liberalism and anti-discrimination politics (265) impress the reader with succinct phrases about various concepts, as does a helpful table contrasting multiculturalism and traditional liberal pluralism (225).

Some stylistic features, however, should be reexamined.  As scholarly as the volume is, there is no need for excessive page-length paragraphs.  Also, although he is able to use enumeration correctly to guide the reader, as when he writes that there are “four characteristic features of life under this [anti-discrimination] regime” (48), more enumeration in topic sentences would assist readers to follow Powers’ thought.  For example, in discussing “Several other undeniably radical features of anti-discrimination politics”, the reader can locate the “first” and the “second”, but it is unclear whether the “Another radical dimension of the anti-discrimination regime” a paragraph later is a continuation of the previous paragraph or a new enumeration (280-1).  Thus, quantifying the number of “Several other” initially would make the reading more mellifluous.

Finally, while he explicitly states that “It is not the purpose of this book to enter into the question of reform in any detail” (290), the activist reader (student, faculty, or ordinary citizen) may discover that Powers’ discoveries can be applied to contemporary social movements.  For example, if he argues that anti-discrimination law, which is mostly accomplished by statute, is more effective than constitutional law, then such a position might be an opportunity for pro-life theorists and activists to argue that the unborn child has a right to life based on principles of anti-discrimination diversity, inclusion, and equity (65ff).  Similarly, for the more politically minded, “By becoming the party of anti-discrimination, the Democratic Party” (66) could become an easy target for Republican Party activists because of its extreme support of woke culture.

The volume is attractively produced in a readable font.  Best of all, especially for the student researcher, the thorough 296-page text is expanded by 66 pages of endnotes and a 78-page bibliography.  The 22-page index should be expanded in future editions to include important terms often mentioned in the text (such as “abortion” or “transgender”) as main entries.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:

Book reviews Uncategorized

Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World (1907; republished by St. Augustine’s Press, 2011)

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Title this casual review: Brave New World Revisited Yet Again, or, How Could a Century-Old Novel Have Become a Frightening Prophecy of Life in the United States in 2023?

Several Catholic sources mentioned Benson’s novel as timely for contemporary life.  After reading it, one can concur.

Granted, some elements of this science fiction novel written 116 years ago miss the mark regarding technological advances that humanity would experience well beyond 1998 (the last future-identified year in the novel itself).  However, other elements hit the target directly, including the following.

In his preface to the novel, Ralph McInerny concludes that “Three-quarters of a century before John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Robert Hugh Benson imagined a Culture of Death” (vii).  C. John McCloskey III identifies the most frightening example of the death-loving culture in his introduction to the novel when he states that “The Culture of Death is omnipresent in the novel, particularly the universal availability of euthanasia.  Chillingly in an early scene, the ‘ministers of Euthanasia’ descend upon the survivors of a ‘Volor’ crash in order to finish them off” (xvii; volor is a type of airplane).

The following are quotable quotes which students of literature will find worthy to study to determine how what was written in 1907 applies to life today (British spellings retained):

On the feebleness and decay of Protestant Christianity and the remnant of faithful (orthodox) Catholic Christianity:

“I think, that, humanly speaking, Catholicism will decrease rapidly now.  It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead.  Men do recognize at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment in matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration.  And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left” (8).

On Islam’s attacks on the West:

“the patient East proposed at last to proselytise by the modern equivalents of fire and sword those who had laid aside for the most part all religious beliefs except that in Humanity” (17).

On the barbarity of mobs, such as those of young people who think they are fighting “for Palestine” when they are promoting genocide of Jews:

“And then the rest of the world—the madness that had seized upon the nations; the amazing stories that had poured in that day of the men in Paris, who, raving like Bacchantes, had stripped themselves naked in the Place de Concorde, and stabbed themselves to the heart, crying out to thunders of applause that life was too enthralling to be endured; of the woman who sang himself mad last night in Spain, and fell laughing and foaming in the concert hall at Seville; of the crucifixion of the Catholics that morning in the Pyrenees, and the apostasy of three bishops in Germany….  And this…and this…and a thousand more horrors were permitted, and God made no sign and spoke no word….” (120).

On Antifa domestic terrorists and Hamas terrorists destroying Western civilization:

“but this was a cheap price to pay for the final and complete extermination of the Catholic past” (179).

On the current state of the world, described for the “new pope” in the novel:

“Christianity had smouldered away from Europe like a sunset on darkening peaks; Eternal Rome was a heap of ruins; in East and West alike a man had been set upon the throne of God, had been acclaimed as divine.  The world had leaped forward; social science was supreme; men had learned consistency; they had learned, too, the social lessons of Christianity apart from a Divine Teacher, or, rather, they said, in spite of Him” (194).

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:

Book reviews

The Babylon Bee’s The Babylon Bee Guide to Gender: The Comprehensive Handbook to Men, Women, and Millions of New Genders We Just Made Up! (Salem Books, 2023)

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The Babylon Bee Guide to Gender is the perfect Hanukkah and Christmas gift for LGBTQ zealots who would rather murder you instead of argue for their distortion of heterosexual normativity.

Ordinary people (you know, the only two genders on the planet called “men” and “women”) will laugh, often hysterically, at the Bee’s reduction of the idiocies of gender zealots to quick one-liners or strings of memorable verbal phrases.  It is simultaneously most unfortunate that those who have been infected with gender ideology by leftist, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and woke weakling professors who want to make a name for themselves by talking about gender, gender, and more gender will believe the sorry shit the Bee is mocking.

(Sorry for the string of adjectives before “professors”; I know they’re repetitive concepts, being terms denoting people who want to kill fellow human beings.)

However, disregarding the pains of those who suffer from gender ideology for the moment, the humor in the book is substantial.  Consider the following quotes:

Gender is “whatever we want it to be, and it’s never what we don’t not not want it to be” (4).  Wha-what?  That’s the point, though; since gender ideology is not based on rational science, trying to state its tenets yields as irrational language as any verbal tongue-twister.

“A key concept we’ll be discussing throughout this book is the core difference between the fluid, imagination-driven concept of gender identity and things that try to make us question our gender identity—bigoted, hateful things such as ‘reality,’ ‘facts,’ and most importantly biology” (7).

“If they can’t tell at a glance that you are a non-cisconforming fairy-bodied triosoul, they obviously hate you, and the only thing you can do both for their benefit and for the forwarding of culture is to proverbially smash them into the ground with charges of hate speech, microaggression, macroaggression, misogyny, misandry, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and possibly even racism.  Did I say ‘possibly racism’?  I meant ‘definitely racism.’  Always racism” (10).

“’Maleness’ only exists as a spiritual force of political oppression that can manifest itself in all kinds of bodies, no matter what the genetics say” (17).

“Men are a dark force of unbalanced power that must be neutralized at all costs.  They are the main cause of all the bad things, such as global warming, racism, climate change, and global warming.  The evil force of manhood can take the form of a man, woman, or Brian Stelter” (30).  The repetition of “global warming”, I suspect, is deliberate to illustrate that gender zealots merely repeat themselves needlessly because they are not critical thinkers of a valid philosophy.

Margaret Sanger is correctly described as “the feminist and women’s rights activist who was indirectly responsible for one of humanity’s greatest achievements: baby murder.  Sanger notably also inspired the charismatic world leader Adolf H.  Don’t worry about his last name.  It’s not important” (50).

Regarding pronouns: “And if you’re not on our side, we will punch you in your ignorant, bigoted, and probably white face.  We will win this war.  Join us or die, infidel!” (67).

“Pride is loving who you are despite what others may think, and also attempting to force others to think in the exact same way as you; otherwise, they are fascist aggressors who literally want you to die, and they should die themselves unless they change their beliefs” (129).

Political activism is defined as “the act of intimidating and terrorizing elected officials into passing laws to officially recognize gender ideology as the law of the land.  If we don’t do this, politicians will turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale and hunt down trans people for sport” (190).

Universities “cost $200k a year and turn kids into obedient gender activists with highly effective slogan-repeating skills and second-to-none demonic screams” (199).

Other items in the work provide more of the Bee’s inimitable comedic commentary: a chart on inventing a gender (58), Pride flags (61-2), replacing family traditions like “sitting around the campfire” with “sitting around the burning police station” (99), how a woman can attract a man (“Show up at his front door barefoot, wearing a housewife dress, holding a load of fresh bread, and offer to bear his children.  Subtle!”) (107), a “Gender-Sensitive Pickup Line Generator” table (115), commentary on “The Church of Gender” (119ff), an analysis of woke corporations (146ff), “The Twenty-Five Step Process to Changing Your Gender” (162-7), and the gender glossary (210ff), wherein “biology” is defined as “hate speech” (211).

Finally, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:


Thanksgiving to God Day 2023

Happy Thanksgiving to God Day 2023…

…despite the best efforts of pro-abortion zealots, Antifa domestic terrorists, Hamas terrorists, and the abortion business Planned Parenthood (virtually the same things, right?), we pro-life civil rights activists give thanks every day to God for the essential gift of life.

THAT’S something that a pro-abortion puppet like the criminal Joe Biden can NEVER say.

Book reviews

T. M. Gaouette’s For Eden’s Sake (2019)

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Unlike cheesy and ultra-pious “Christian” fiction, Gaouette’s novel depicts a young couple who, in a drunken stupor, banged each other in a one-night stand and whose resulting abortion decision is handled realistically.

I feared that this novel would be yet another “religious” work fictionalizing abortion with lots of “come to Jesus” moments and citations and transcriptions of Scripture galore.

Buzzer!  The author must have read Dana Gioia’s The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays (Wiseblood Books, 2019), wherein he writes that “Catholic literature is rarely pious.  [….]  Catholic writing tends to be comic, rowdy, rude, and even violent” (20).  Whether the book is as naughty as the opening paragraph of this review, I leave to the reader; “Having just left her asleep in the crumpled bed I’d risen from” (4) is perhaps the naughtiest line in the entire work, and that ain’t saying much.

But, since this is not a college English class lecture and a book review meant for social media and not scholars (whom no one reads anyway), I digress…

Gaouette’s ability to render her characters realistically could lead the reader to miss some important polarities and deeper philosophical ideas which practitioners of old-fashioned literary criticism used in colleges and universities before the woke nonsense replaced solid literature analysis with Democratic Party political activism, such as pro-abortion agitprop and anti-Semitism.

For example, archetypal literary critics could spend some time examining why the main characters are named Isaac Prince (twenty-two years old) and Rebecca Stratham (nineteen) and why their child is named Eden, especially since the novel does not explain the religious significance.  (Remember: it isn’t a preachy religious tract.)

A deconstructionist literary critic might discuss the evident “polarities” represented by the characters to somehow “undermine” or “destabilize” the “meaning” of the “text” (such buzzwords to say that a decon critic wants to destroy what an author tries to communicate!).

For example, Isaac obviously lives his religious upbringing—he is not ashamed to confess his sin of fornication in the Sacrament of Reconciliation early in the novel (10ff)—while Rebecca seems to be bereft of any type of religious training.  Isaac comes from a functioning two-parent heterosexual family, while Rebecca’s family dynamics are unknown, the exception being a materialistic and emotionally cold father.

Even the friends of these two main characters function as polarities.  While rural boy Isaac relies on his childhood buddy and brother-in-faith Kevin to help him navigate the responsibilities of adulthood in the big city, Rebecca’s pal is the so-called pro-“choice” (that is, abortion-loving) and aggressive Tess.  That Tess’ abortion is disclosed only towards the end of the novel accounts somewhat for her intolerance of pro-life ideas and persons (hence her disgust and hatred of Isaac, whom she derides for his “patriarchal” care for both Rebecca and the unborn child), but she remains a flat and (worse) an unlikeable character.

A feminist literary critic could explore the evident patriarchal oppression of women and other now ridiculously outdated tenets of traditional political feminism by determining if Isaac is indeed oppressing Rebecca with the power of his phallus or otherwise dominating her with his heteropatriarchy or similar nonsense that most students merely laugh at behind their Women’s Studies professors’ backs.

A gay and lesbian literary critic might have some material to work with to justify a weird and utterly false interpretation of the novel.  Hmmm…Isaac and his best buddy Kevin share an apartment together?  Fishy.  They were boyhood “friends”?  Doubly fishy.  Similarly, Rebecca and her friend Tess also share an apartment?  Triply fishy.  Tess is more a domineering (over Rebecca) masculine type while Rebecca is ever so girly?  Quadruply fishy!  However, beyond these preliminary salacious suggestions, a gay and lesbian critic would be as effective in analyzing the novel as a deconstructionist critic would provide help to rabbinical scholars explicating the Babylonian Talmud to understand what God meant by the lex talionis.

Sidebar here, touching on masculinist literary criticism, designed for heterosexual men.  Chapter 11 (127ff) wherein Isaac and Kevin go shopping in a store for baby items is wonderful comic relief.  What likeable dumbasses!

A Marxist literary critic would revel in the clash of ideologies represented by the polarities of the life-affirming Isaac and the stridently anti-life so-called “feminist” Tess (“feminist” in quotation marks, since a genuine feminist would support the life of the unborn child and reject abortion, as the nineteenth century founders of the American feminist movement advocated).  Also, since Marxist literary criticism delves into financial aspects of literature, examining the power of money and other transactions that Isaac presents to Rebecca in order to save the child from being killed in abortion would constitute a wonderful literary analysis paper…for a pro-life English professor, that is.

Fortunately, students of literature and the general reading public can reject the above tired literary theories and realize the worth of Gaouette’s novel through the perspective of right-to-life literary criticism, for which I formulated five questions.

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

Gaouette’s work illustrates the pricelessness of human life admirably and, in contrast to pro-abortion novels which read more as ideological essays than fiction, does so without hearkening to pro-life responses to anti-life diatribes against the first civil right to life.  The appreciation of human life as a good in itself is particularly manifested by Rebecca, who achieves a life-affirming position in a calculus of actions to be explored further below.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

A surface reading of Gaouette’s novel would not answer this question affirmatively since it is not preachy.  The reader can, however, determine an answer by examining the reactions of those who devalue human life or aspects of our humanity which everybody should support.  Here, again, Tess is the obvious catalyst to help readers understand how an anti-life philosophy manifests itself; furthermore, by contrast, the reader can appreciate the human lives whom she degrades.

For example, Tess does not think highly of pro-lifers—a litotes if there ever was one!  She reduces Isaac to “this moron” whose intent in trying to save the child from abortion is “all about taking away our reproductive rights” (34).  The universe of pro-life persons she similarly reduces negatively as in the following falsity: “Typical pro-lifer.  Cares only about the fetus when it’s inside the woman.  Then they forget all about them when they’re born.  They let them suffer then, don’t they?” (82).

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

Sorry, not sorry, gay, lesbian, and transgender zealots who see the LGBTQ distortion of heterosexual normativity in every work of fiction.  Gaouette’s work doesn’t cater to such a warped sense of human sexuality as most publishers demand of their authors to be politically correct.  Isaac is a real man, “soft eyes, strong physique, and manly features” (105) whose sperm do their job on the first try.  Rebecca is stereotypically feminine and womanly, not pink haired, studded with nose and tongue rings, wearing amorphous gender-free clothing, or willing to kill unborn human life.

Moreover, while Rebecca suffers from a broken family structure (her mother died when she was apparently a little girl “all those years ago” [32]), Isaac can rely on both of his parents to support him in his efforts to, first, save the life of the unborn child whom he created with Rebecca from abortion and, second, to raise their daughter on his own after her birth.

Further, Isaac’s parents’ reactions to his paternity are realistic and not preachy as some ideology-driven, albeit pro-life, fiction might render them.  For example, the father’s reaction to the announcement that Isaac is a daddy—and (remember from the first paragraph of this review) became one by screwing a chick in a one-night stand in a drunken stupor—is utterly honest:

After what seemed like forever, he stood.  “I’m going to bed,” he said.  “And I think you should do the same.”  He lifted the jug and shuffled to the fridge.  After shutting the door, he turned to me.  “We can talk in the morning.”  He headed out of the room.  (41)

Wouldn’t a father react with such speechlessness and tiredness if the son he thought was such a “good boy” seemed to fuck up his life?

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

The range of responses to this question moves from Isaac’s consistent support for the life of the unborn child despite the impact that caring for the child would have on his own life, Rebecca’s, or his parents’ lives to Tess’ equally consistent perception of the unborn child as, in the customary feminist distortion of life, a roadblock to Rebecca’s success or merely another opportunity for the exercise of male power over the life of yet another woman.

Most significantly, while her belief in the perspective that human life is a philosophical good, which has been hinted above, Rebecca’s affirming the life of the unborn child has been accomplished in a lengthy trajectory.  The calculus of life-affirming steps moves from her being a character assertive in her right that “fortunately, for me, it’s my body, Isaac.  You guys don’t get a choice” (22; italics in original), to someone who nonchalantly uses pro-abortion dehumanizing language to refer to the unborn child as when she calls her “the parasite that was growing within” (54), to one who becomes aware of the child’s humanity through ultrasound images, and eventually to one who provides a gift to the child after birth, knowing that Isaac has committed to raising their daughter himself (a gift given before the novel’s denouement, not to be spoiled here).

Thus, unlike the flat character Tess, Rebecca is eminently more of a round character than Isaac, having come to this heightened character status through acceptance of a series of life-affirming principles showing the “perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some ‘thing’ which is priceless”, which ineluctably leads Rebecca to accept “that unborn […] human life has an inherent right to exist”—an impossible task to accomplish in anti-life fiction.

Moreover, Isaac and Tess are not the only ones who hold firm positions on the value of unborn human life.  Many other minor characters are worth studying, such as the nurse operating the ultrasound who comments approvingly on the unborn child’s development, especially the heartbeat, or Isaac’s parents, who are committed to assist Isaac and the child once she is born, or Isaac’s birth mother.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

This last question of right-to-life literary theory cannot be answered definitively since the characters are still in their youth and their lives together as an integral family are not fulfilled chronologically.  The reader can conjecture, however, that at least one of the characters, Isaac, maintains the religious principles of his parents especially when he exults in the preciousness of his daughter’s life vis-à-vis God’s creation:

“Eden,” I whispered.  It just came to me and it was so fitting, because everything God created was perfect.  And hearing me speak her name sent another wash through me, the emotion leading to a tightness in my throat.  And I only managed to whisper, “It’s Daddy.”  (163)

In contrast, although she seems to acknowledge a religious foundation for life, as evidenced by her purchasing an overtly Catholic religious necklace for her daughter, Rebecca’s acknowledgement of the divine presence in the world is superficial at best.  After all, buying a religious item for someone else can hardly substantiate that the person him- or herself has recognized “a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective”; it may, at least, suggest her openness to such a philosophical foundation.

At 180 pages, Gaouette’s novel is a quick and enjoyable read.  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:

Book reviews

Rajasree Variyar’s The Daughters of Madurai (Union Square, 2023)

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Abortion zealots who also support the killing of newborn girls (infanticide) will censor this novel for its life-affirming message, so read it now.

Variyar has written a well-developed narrative of an Indian mother’s effort to save her newborn daughter from being killed for the “crime” of being born a female.  While the pro-life world knew about female infanticide in India for decades, this novel may shock ignorant American readers (I know, I know…that’s a redundancy) and should help feminists (the genuine ones, that is, which means pro-life feminists) advocate for the lives of their newborn sisters as much as they fight for the lives of their unborn sisters in danger of being killed by abortion.

The structure of Variyar’s novel is especially interesting for its inclusion of fetological facts preceding key chapters, which function not only as guides for the development of the infanticide narrative, but also as teaching tools for readers who are ignorant of the development of an unborn child.  This is especially important in today’s culture when high school and college students are indoctrinated by leftist and woke ideas about unborn life instead of being taught subjects they should know, like grammar or Chemistry.

The combined fetological notations are, thus, an education in the life of an unborn child:

Chapter 6: “The first month / Now her mouth, lower jaw, blood cells, and circulation develop. / She is the size of a grain of rice” [61].

Chapter 7: “The second month / Now her heart has formed.  Fingers and toes webbed like a frog’s. / The sketch of features—eyes, ears, mouth, nose. / She is the size of a gooseberry” [76].

Chapter 9: “The third month / Now her tail has disappeared. / Her fingers and toes have lost their webbing and gained their nails. / She is plum-size” [106].

Chapter 11: “The fourth month / Now her face moves, smiles, frowns. / She hears the sound of her mother’s heartbeat” [133].

Chapter 12: “The end of the fourth month / There are nails on her tiny fingers and toes. / Her teeth and bones are strengthening. / She is the size of a mango” [152].

Chapter 13: “The fifth month / The skin on her fingertips swirl into prints. / She begins to move her limbs.  Her mother feels her flutter” [166].

Chapter 15: “The sixth month / Now she hears the lullaby her mother sings to her sister. / It soothes her.  She has hair and lashes of white. / Her skin is flushed pomegranate-red” [198].

Chapter 16: “The seventh month / Now she twists and turns in her mother’s womb. / Her tiny fists open and close at the sound of her mother’s voice. / Her heartbeat calms” [215].

Chapter 17: “The eighth month / Now her eyes can focus.  Her wrinkles are smoothing over her baby fat. / She is the size of a cabbage” [225].

Chapter 19: “The end of the ninth month / Now she is chubby with fat, and her bones have hardened. / Her home is too small for her, holding her close and warm. / She reaches for the world’s embrace” [248].

For committing the crime of humanizing the unborn child, Variyar’s novel will certainly be condemned by abortion zealots and their fellow gang members, those who support infanticide, the killing of newborns.  It behooves the rest of us who are civil rights activists and pro-life readers (same thing) to enjoy her work.

Of course, the novel is more than a transcription of fetological facts about an unborn child’s development.  It is a frightening study of the depths which humans reach when they devalue the lives of fellow human beings.

Pro-lifers, of course, know that the devaluation of human life occurs, first, linguistically when any stage of human life is reduced to animal or non-human imagery.  Thus, a pro-life reader would know that the grandmother who calls Janani’s newborn girl “The useless thing” (5) and, later, urges her to “‘get rid of it’” (113) practices standard dehumanization before a human life is killed.

Since there is such a thing as post-abortion syndrome (PAS), the novel includes several passages which illustrate what could be labeled post-infanticide syndrome (PIS, an unfortunate acronym which could distract from the seriousness of the matter).  For example, Janani speculates that “In this quietness, she felt as though she could feel spirits lingering, hear little feet on the hard dirt” [19] and that, of her two daughters who were killed, “What would the other two look like now, if they had been allowed to live?” (21).  Her post-infanticide speculation is not merely a one-time event, for it continues throughout the novel.  Janani imagines “two other little bodies beside this one”, her living daughter’s body (62).  Janani reflects that “Her second girl, Lavanika’s first little sister, would be about the same age” (70).

Besides anti-life language used to dehumanize the unborn and newborn child, the novel illustrates the dehumanizing effect of the absence of heterosexual marriage, especially as understood in the Jewish and Christian West (remember that the setting for the novel is Hindu India).  Janani’s husband, for example, does not respect either himself or his wife when he has sex with a whore.

The distortion of the heterosexual union by a life-denying philosophy affects more than the husband and wife, of course.  It is shameful that Janani’s mother-in-law speaks thus about the Indian government’s effort to save newborn baby girls from infanticide by offering “baby cradles” (comparable to safe-baby schemes in the United States) for the peasants: “Can you imagine the shame?  Not being able to decide the fate of your own child?  Giving it up, just like that.  They won’t be able to hold their heads up” (75).  This character certainly does not fit the stereotypical grandmother, a loving older woman, ready to bake cookies for her grandbabies when they visit Grandma.  She’s a killer.  Only in a culture which thinks infanticide is the norm would an effort to save newborn babies from being abandoned or killed be shameful.

If only India would someday convert to Christianity en masse not only to protect unborn and newborn lives, but also to secure the self-respect which should obtain between men and women.

Some final reductionist paragraphs from the main character may be a sufficient first step in India’s move from a life-denying philosophy to a life-affirming one.  Nila interjects a couple of paragraphs about “the millions of girls who are missing from India’s population.  Girls smothered and poisoned and drowned and buried alive.  Girls that never emerge from their mother’s wombs” (323-4).

One flaw in the narrative is the inclusion of an unnecessary lesbian relationship.  While one may presume that the lesbianism was forced on the author because that’s what publishers expect under the politically incorrect regime of the LGBTQ distortion of sexuality, there is truly no need for the narrator Nila to develop a lesbian relationship with a woman named Iphigenia.  It would be interesting to speculate that the lesbian relationship that the narrator values is a direct effect of the distortion of how a heterosexual marriage should be lived, but studying or justifying the intrusion of an LGBTQ element must be relegated to future research by an enterprising young student of literature for a woke professor’s literature class.

Book reviews

Andy Ngo’s Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy (Center Street, 2021)

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Police, parents, Democratic voters: everybody must read Ngo’s exposé of Antifa domestic terrorists.  Why?  They hate the United States, love violence, and will try to stop you from kicking out Joe Biden and re-electing President Trump.

Although the above summary sounds too political for a mere book review, it succinctly captures the essence of America’s newest domestic terrorists—not (as the Democratic Party would have us believe) the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic KKK, white nationalists, MAGA voters, or civil rights/pro-life Catholics, but those black clad rioters whose goal is the destruction of the nation.

Ngo does a superb job of documenting his study of Antifa before and after his assault by Antifa domestic terrorists.  Students and non-woke faculty will appreciate the 429 endnotes (241-58), sources (259-94), and index.  In fact, several passages are prescient, functioning as prophecies of recent news; his comment about “rogue prosecutors” applies to the corrupt Fani Willis (237; see below).

Instead of needless repetition, reading Ngo’s own words might persuade readers to purchase the book as an essential reference guide to Antifa domestic terrorists, so I offer these quotable quotes.

“[A]ntifa’s sophisticated strategy [is] to destabilize society using propaganda, radicalization, violence, and even electoral politics.  It was always wrong to reduce antifa to a ragtag group of street hooligans.  Behind their violence is a plan to destroy the nation-state, America in particular, to bring about a revolution that leads to their vision of utopia.” (6)  Note: “antifa” is always lower case in Ngo’s work since, “While there is no single capital A ‘Antifa’ organization with one leader, there are indeed localized cells and groups with formalized structures and memberships.  Though officially leaderless, these are organizations by every definition” (82).

“The plan now is to create a decentralized system of cells and affinity groups who share in the same ideology through disseminated propaganda and literature.  They recognize that accelerationist tactics like mass killings of police or political opponents are too high risk.  The goal is to inflict maximum damage without death and to maintain the momentum of riots to drain government resources and law enforcement morale.” (156)

“If you follow antifa as a subject on social media, you’ve probably seen the right-wing meme that portrays them as weak and effeminate.  This meme bothered me long before my own experience of being assaulted by them.  It falsely portrays all Antifa as harmless paper tigers.  This is wrong.  Some antifa are athletic and train in street fighting, as documented in the undercover videos.  Those who are less athletic can use the weapons described above.  And anyone can be trained to use a firearm.  It is a catastrophic mistake to assume antifa aren’t capable of mass carnage.  This is not a movement that follows the rules of engagement.  They go for the eyes, the genitals—whatever it takes to ‘bash the fash.’  If that means mobbing an individual in a twenty-on-one scenario, they’ll do it.  And if it involves killing for their cause, they’re willing to do it as well.” (163)

“Antifa are often assumed to be upper-class spoiled brats by their detractors, but this isn’t broadly true.  I’ve looked through records and backgrounds of nearly a thousand people arrested at antifa riots to get a better sense of who they are.  While some are indeed highly educated and in white-collar professions ranging from law to academia to health care, those who are involved in the street violence are disproportionally individuals dealing with housing insecurity, financial instability, and mental health issues like gender dysphoria.  Antifa could not give a damn if those people end up injured, imprisoned, or dead in the furtherance of their political agenda.” (234)

“Antifa will continue to grow after this book’s publication.  The groundwork has already been laid, and the ideology is mainstreamed and given legitimacy through Black Lives Matter and the Democratic Party.  Still, I urge compassion for those who have been drawn into this violent extremist ideology.  The hatred antifa feel toward their society, country, and fellow citizens comes from pain and resentment of their own lives.” (235)

“When the far left say the American legal system is ‘broken’, I actually agree with them but for different reasons.  Why are district attorneys, who are elected politicians, determining who gets prosecuted?  They have every incentive to bow to the whims of a mob in order to stay in office.  There must be better independent oversight to hold rogue prosecutors accountable.” (237)

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher:

Book reviews

Jennifer Haigh’s Mercy Street (HarperCollins, 2022)

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Following the template of “girls gone wrong”, Jennifer Haigh has written a wonderful depiction of abortion zealots gone wrong, a novel which should encourage readers to continue to rejoice in their ordinary, heterosexually (re)productive, and pro-life lives.

Granted, that may not have been the intention of the author (trying to illustrate the “benefits” of abortion, I guess), but the characters are so hopeless, purposeless, and downright STOOPID that anybody reading the novel would feel much happier knowing that his or her life AIN’T so bad after all.

Moreover, Haigh’s novel comes close to being a fictional support for the pro-life movement, as I argue below, applying the questions of right-to-life literary theory to the work, primarily because the characters’ world is so devoid of purpose that they function as contrasts to the anti-life mentality of the abortion business which is supposed to be the framework for the novel.

For, an abortion clinic is, after all, still a place where women are harmed, where unborn babies are killed, and where fathers are alienated.  The negative connotation of any abortion clinic obtains despite five decades of feminist rhetoric and blabber about women’s “choice”, “empowerment”, “liberation”, and other euphemisms for the brutality expressed in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Let’s examine the novel vis-à-vis the questions of right-to-life literary theory, shall we?

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          Unfortunately, Haigh’s characters cannot apply any higher philosophical value to life beyond their immediate physical or political needs.  For example, middle-aged Timmy, a key character who interacts with the main character, lives solely for his addiction: daily mounds of marijuana.  (Two annual trips to Florida constitute the paternal attention he gives to his teenaged son, now raised by his ex-wife.)  Forty-three year old Claudia, the main character, thinks her job as a counselor/marketer for the abortion clinic is her summum bonum: “For Claudia, dealing with unplanned pregnancies—prevention, remediation—was more than a career.  It was her mission, her life’s work” (257).

          Pro-life activists who protest outside abortion companies/clinics can use Claudia’s stress as evidence that abortion businesses are demeaning and frightful.  For example, she affirms in close proximity quotes that “Work has been stressful lately” and “I mean, it’s always stressful” (36).  The pro-life reader can sympathize with this pro-abortion character’s stress; much later in the novel, Claudia describes how a “real” abortion clinic operates (she is trying to denigrate a crisis pregnancy center): “The place had no metal detector, no cameras, not even a security guard.  At a real clinic, such measures would be automatic.  At a real clinic, the staff would be afraid” (204).

It is no wonder, then, that, when her mother asks her indirectly why she works at an abortion clinic (“I don’t know how you can work there”), Claudia does not reply verbally, but responds nevertheless: “The person who says it—even if she’s your mother—is trying to start a conversation you don’t want to have” (255).

          How horrible and terribly vapid that smelling like burnt weeds and holding a job which involves harming women, killing unborn babies, and alienating fathers—and not wanting to talk about it—are the existential goods that these characters cite to guide them through their years on the planet.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

          The Nazi-like disgust that the novel’s pro-abortion characters have for humanity is striking.  Claudia is especially a hot mess in this regard.  Her view of children counters that of the rest of humanity; she “didn’t love children—at least, not in the global, unconditional way women were supposed to” (22).  Her view towards people in general is derived from a purely economic misinterpretation of her mother’s work in a nursing home.  Her mother “raised other people’s kids because it was one of only a few things she could earn money doing.  The world was full of discarded people, sickly old ones and damaged young ones, and she was a paid caretaker” (17-8).

          Used tissues should be “discarded”, but that adjective should never be used for fellow human beings—unless one adopts the Nazi (and pro-abortion) philosophy that there is such a thing as a life not worthy of life.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          LGBTQ and abortion activists (virtually the same political identity group, of course) will not like how Haigh’s characters support heterosexual normativity despite their best efforts to live according to secular principles regarding sex and families.

          Claudia’s need for heterosexual normativity would be pathetic to LGBTQ and (especially) transgender zealots, but sympathetic to the pro-life world, as in a touching scene where the teenaged Claudia works at a car shop: “She sat in the back like a daughter on television.  A cherished daughter being driven somewhere, her mother in the passenger seat, her father at the wheel” (45).  Saccharine, maybe, but the comparison demonstrates how desperately Claudia wanted ordinary family life.

          Claudia’s desire for heterosexual normativity in a traditional family structure continues.  She states that “she didn’t want to know” whether her mother would have aborted her if abortion were legal in Maine (she was conceived in May 1971), yet the narrator says that Naomi, a fellow abortion clinic worker, “was the mother Claudia wished she’d had” (47, 84).

          Even Timmy, the marijuana dealer, thought that marrying the mother of his unborn baby “seemed like the right thing to do” even though they barely knew each other (164).

          By novel’s end, however, heterosexual normativity reigns supreme, a denouement which begs the question: why, therefore, was it necessary to include an abortion business in the plot?  Was it just a means to end the novel “happy” since there is nothing happy about an abortion?  Or was it the author’s/narrator’s genuine effort, in Marxist literary critical fashion, to overthrow the ideology of anti-life feminist matriarchy with heterosexuality which has been a feature of humanity since we oozed out of the slime?

          Whatever the answer is, it is delightful to know that the neurotic, super-pious, living-out-of-his-mother’s-basement, pro-life protestor Anthony now has a job at a deli, and, when he comes across the woman whom he first screwed, the reader perceives that they will most likely go on a date (here’s where the audience goes “Aw…”).

Even Claudia is overcoming the oppression of feminist pro-abortion ideology by choosing life.  Although she is still working at the abortion clinic (think cognitive dissonance), she is obviously pregnant and declaims the following secular version of a pro-life affirmation of motherhood:

Finding herself accidentally pregnant in middle age was the second-greatest surprise of her life.

          The greater surprise was that she could do it.  (328)

On the last page of the novel, Claudia expands her pro-life declamation with the following:

Soon, soon, she would give birth to her mother.  In the dream she had found this ridiculous, but also correct and delightful.

It was the best possible thing.  (338)

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          Like contemporary abortion novels written by openly anti-civil rights authors, Haigh’s novel does not recognize the first civil right, the right to life of the unborn child.  The pro-abortion characters express their hatred of the unborn child to be killed in abortion with the usual contempt, sometimes in new anti-life phrases which further distort his or her humanity.

          For example, Claudia defines her miscarried child, a baby lost at eight weeks, whom she did not want, as

a fetus the size of a gumball.

          It wasn’t a baby; it was a menstrual period.  (97)

Note that the negation, the rhetorical use of “not”, followed by definition, is reinforced by being its own paragraph, as though the narrator/author wanted to emphasize the dehumanization of the unborn child.

          Claudia continues her rant about the fetus not being a person later in a series of adjectives, showing how ignorant she is of fetologists’ research into the activities of the unborn human being: “this mute, unthinking knot of tissue—alive, yes, but unformed, unconscious, incapable of tenderness or reasoning or even laughter” (130-1).

          Even a hallmark of women’s reproductive capacity, pregnancy, is denigrated by these anti-life characters.  While life-affirming (pro-life) women regard pregnancy as a joyous possibility of being female, Claudia, in contrast, compares pregnancy to a burning building with a fire on each floor (14).

          Just like other pro-abortion novels, even ones written by activists who support abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, if recognizing the first civil right to life is impossible for these pro-abortion characters, one would think that saying the word “abortion” would not be, but it is.  Instead of saying the word “abortion”, clinic employees use an acronym to hide the name of the killing they perform: “An AB.  That’s what they called it.  Whenever possible, they avoided saying the word” (26).

          The narrator, seemingly recording Claudia’s reflections on an aborting mother’s experience, uses multiple euphemisms for the killing about to occur:

In an hour the procedure would be over, and Hannah’s visit to the clinic would become part of her past.  When she thought about it at all, she’d remember a youthful mistake, quickly corrected.  In the spring she would graduate from Pilgrims Country Day.  Whatever happened next—Yale or Dartmouth, the future unfolding—would stem directly from the choice made on Mercy Street.  For Hannah R., every door remained open.  Her life was entirely her own.  (178)

While the words “choice”, “it”, and procedure” have a long history in anti-life writing to refer to abortion, this novel offers some unique and verbose euphemisms which the pro-life world should note as linguistic attempts to hide the brutality of abortion.  A “visit to the [abortion] clinic” is not like visiting Grandma for her homemade ricotta cookies.  “Youthful mistake” (that is, killing an unborn child in an abortion) is not like the youthful indiscretion of dancing to a disco song on your car hood while slightly inebriated.  While using white-out to erase a digit error in one’s checking account register may be something which needs to be “corrected”, an abortion corrects nothing because becoming pregnant and safeguarding human life in the womb are not errors.

          Another distortion pro-abortion characters use to hide the always-negative connotation of “abortion” involves layers of ambiguous linguistic camouflage for teenagers who get a judicial bypass abortion.  The author compares it to “permission to do as she wished with her one and only life” (28).  “Permission”?  “As she wished”?  “Her one and only life”?  These phrases require an extensive unpacking which would make this review more lugubrious than it already is.

          Moreover, any educated reader must note how pro-abortion characters lack or ignore the science on which the pro-life movement is based.  This is evident, for example, when Claudia imagines herself in a video countering what a pro-life protester says about abortion and breast cancer: “Just so you know, there is no connection at all between abortion and breast cancer” (98; italics in original).  That the author/narrator felt compelled to emphasize this falsity in italics heightens either the zealotry or the willful ignorance of the pro-abortion main character.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

          Finally, the characters in Haigh’s novel are just like every other abortion novel: if not openly irreligious, then they are simply ignorant.  They’re dumb as dirt when it comes to the smallest particulars of faith, let alone the wider concerns of religion.  For example, Claudia is terribly ignorant of a prayer which is common knowledge.  “Hail Mary, full of grace.  There was more to the prayer, but Claudia had never learned it.  She understood the words only in football terms, the doomed audacity of the long-distance pass” (283; italics in original).  To be fair, even the “pro-life” characters are irreligious.  Victor Prine, the racist whom the narrator/author identifies as a pro-life protestor, thinks that people have faith because they are senseless: “The prison chaplain had caught him at a vulnerable moment.  Later Victor would come to his senses, but at the time it felt real to him.  He had wanted so badly to believe” (197).

          Furthermore, Claudia “had no experience with religious people” (8-9).  This lack of experience with people who have a radically different worldview from hers may account for her (or perhaps the author’s) ignorance throughout the novel.  For example, Victor Prine is a pro-life activist, albeit one who is racist against African Americans, who engages in only one legitimate pro-life activity (distributing pro-life signs along his trucking routes) and one shady if not illegal activity (posting photos of mothers going into abortion clinics on his website).  It’s interesting, therefore, that the author only focuses on pro-life protesters.  She is apparently ignorant of other forms of pro-life activity: enacting protective legislation, composing pro-life songs, assisting mothers with untimely pregnancies by operating free crisis pregnancy centers (one such crisis pregnancy center discussed in the novel is dismissed as an entity which “existed for one reason only: to trick women out of getting abortions.  The place was a fraud” [203]), or even writing pro-life book reviews of pro-abortion novels.

          Makes you wonder if Haigh has any pro-life friends or if she is encased in the anti-life world of virulently pro-abortion New York editors and publishing houses.

          But I digress.

          There is one shining example of a crack in Claudia’s anti-life monolith, however.  Claudia actually speaks kindly of a pro-life protestor named Puffy on one page (174) and then asks two questions about his pro-life witness later in the novel.  Claudia “thought of Puffy, who showed up at the clinic each morning to do absolutely nothing.  How could he stand it?  What, exactly, kept him coming back?” ([229]-30).  Answering these two questions could destroy her pro-abortion mindset.

While Haigh’s work need not be purchased, pro-life readers who would like to examine it in detail can always obtain a copy from their local libraries, thus saving their money for donations to pregnancy support groups.

Book reviews

Katixa Agirre’s Mothers Don’t (translated by Katie Whittemore, Open Letter, 2022; first published in 2018)

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Agirre’s work may be cancelled or banned for not repeating the usual feminist claptrap about “post-birth abortion”, “fourth trimester abortion”, or some other euphemism for killing newborn babies, so read it now.

This novel, therefore, can be illuminating for the pro-life reader, someone who may not be familiar with the push to legalize infanticide as a logical extension of the pro-abortion movement.  After all, if an unborn baby is merely property of the mother and is unwanted, then why should that child be allowed to live after his or her birth?

Fortunately, instead of being a preachy work that attempts to pass itself off as fiction (like, for example, Heather Marshall’s Looking for Jane [Atria Books, 2022], which I recently reviewed, which is more a propaganda piece than a work of fiction), Agirre’s 161 pages constitute a well-constructed work of fiction, examining the case of a mother who drowned her twins in a bathtub.

The novel is much more than that, however.  Agirre’s narrator is herself a mother who had just delivered her newborn son, so she can identify with the infanticidal mother’s postpartum depression, boredom with the ennui of motherhood, and possible psychosis.  The narrator is able to understand, perhaps resolve, the conflicts in her own life as she is trying to understand how any mother could kill her own children, and the conflicts the narrator experiences are profound, as every new mother knows.  She describes the effect of her new status as a mother on her being thus: “my identity as a mother had devoured all other identities and banished all my other selves into exile” (22).

Despite these conflicts, the narrator utters several profound life-affirming statements against infanticide, which pro-life feminists will appreciate.  For example, the narrator reflects on how the word “infanticide” is euphemistically replaced by “the acts” during the infanticidal mother’s trial (37).  She talks about how “it’s easy to kill a child.  They’re small, weak” (89).  All of chapter 1, titled “Killing Children”, in Part II gives a brief, often ironic history of infanticide (89-97), ironic as in the following sample: “If abortion demands action (be it turpentine or a rusty, unsterilized hanger to the uterus), infanticide only requires omission.  Don’t keep it warm, don’t feed it or care for it, abandon it in a forest, lock it in a closet, forget you put it there.  Done” (89; italics in original).

Moreover, since she is a writer who has been awarded for her work, the narrator delves into the infanticide case as an interesting venue for her to write her own emotions and experiences with love, becoming pregnant, being tired and (often) bored with motherly activities, and other matters.  The work, then, represents reality and is neither a saccharine view of motherhood as pure joy nor the drudgery warranting killing the unborn child in abortion or the born child in infanticide.

The narrative maintains dramatic tension throughout the easy-to-read chapters, and the concluding paragraph, which contains the narrator’s respect for the killed twins, reads remarkably like a credo of a pro-life feminist writer:

Everything I did, I did for me.  Following an impulse down to the last comma.  But I want to think that, to a certain extent, I also did it for them.  An acknowledgement or offering, a taste of all they were denied, a little tenderness—at least in memory—for those twins who were probably perfect too.  I am life, after all.  And at the end of the day, I try to beat back death.  (161)

That the narrator concludes the work by expressing this pro-life philosophy is particularly noteworthy since she never manifests a religious faith on which her life-affirming principles could be grounded.  The reader should conclude that, if a secular person can arrive at such life-affirming statements, then supporting the right to life of newborn babies should be much easier for religious persons.

Recommended for students of infanticide literature and activists who see the killing of the newborn as a growing threat from pro-abortion feminist zealots.