Book reviews

Sharon Biggs Waller’s Girls on the Verge (Henry Holt, 2019)

Tedious teen abortion novel by abortion zealot, should have been cut 90%, but useful for pro-lifers.

If she reduced her 221 page teen abortion novel 90%, Waller would have matched Ernest Hemingway’s famous abortion short story “Hills Like White Elephants.”  Unfortunately, the reduction would not have improved the work; it would still be tedious and trite.

We’ve read stories like this before, and the plot is getting tedious, tiring, and tedious (did I say “tedious” enough?).  Camille is a pregnant teen mother who wants to kill the unborn baby using abortifacients and corrals her friends into helping her buy the drugs.  When the abortifacients fail to kill the child, she succeeds in having an office of the abortion business Planned Parenthood kill the unborn child.  That’s all.  End of story.

Not even the anti-male bias of the characters, or their angry feminism, or their “situation” (Camille lives in Texas, which has protective legislation to stop abortion as far as constitutionally permitted) changes the fact that this is just another teen abortion story.

However, fortunately for the pro-life movement, Waller’s novel shows how distortion of language is absolutely necessary among anti-life authors.  (Waller states that she is a volunteer for the abortion business Planned Parenthood [223].)  The distortion of language is something we can use as teachable moments to persuade mothers to reject abortion, which harms them, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers.

For example, every pro-lifer knows how the pronoun “it” has been used since Hemingway’s time to dehumanize the unborn child.  Waller does the same.  Camille wants to “get rid of it” (22) because she denies that the baby is a baby (28).  Camille’s friend Bea asks, “How big will it be?” (78).  Camille will “Flush it down the toilet” (79).

The novel uses pauses and ellipses to show that even an anti-life author like Waller has her characters hesitate using the word “abortion” or any word referring to the unborn child, usually called a “fetus.”  (It’s amazing that virulently pro-abortion authors still don’t realize that the seemingly clinical Latin term “fetus” means one’s child or “offspring” and is meant to be affectionate.)

Moreover, Waller uses the technique of literary “stuttering” or “stammering” in several places.  Camille’s abortifacients would have her deliver the child: “I need to be near a toilet because…because” (78; ellipsis in original, and the sentence ends with terminal punctuation after the repeated subordinating conjunction).  Camille’s friend Bea asks, “How big will it be? […] “The…you know” (78; ellipsis in original).  Later in the novel, Camille’s use of “it” could refer to the abortion procedure or to the child (175).  Camille cannot look at the ultrasound of the baby (175).  Bea’s hesitancy in talking about the unborn child to be killed by abortifacients continues: “to cover the, uh, you know—” (197).

If the author’s stated intention is to help mothers and young women boast about the abortion killings, then these characters have far to go to force themselves into thinking that the medical assault called abortion is a good thing.

An egregious linguistic slip occurs when Camille comments on a time “when you can feel the baby kick” (178).  Was this deliberate, a Freudian slip, or an error on the part of the virulently pro-abortion author?

And, of course, the characters of this anti-life work must utter the standard canard of ignorance of bodily difference, that abortion is something which affects only the mother’s body.  Camille’s friend Annabelle (a stridently anti-male feminist who volunteers for the abortion business Planned Parenthood) utters her ignorance when she says, “It’s none of my business what you do with your body” (105).

Another of course: even Camille, rabid teen anti-life feminist that she is, cannot escape post-abortion syndrome (PAS), as is evident when she rhetorically asks, “How do you deal with awful things that happen?  How do you forget them?” (199).  It’s obvious, then, that she will never “forget” the abortion killing which she arranges.

The abortion itself is a one paragraph bit of linguistic obfuscation which any student in an English literature course would appreciate for its deception:

“Dr. Maria [the abortionist] inserts something in me.  I feel a pressure in my stomach followed by a pain that feels like the worst period cramps I’ve ever had.  But the pain only lasts a few seconds.  My paper drape rustles, and I feel the doctor’s hands as she helps me put my legs down” (213).

Note how the painful killing of the unborn child is obscured behind “the pain” that the mother herself feels, the verb “feel” repeated several times.

However, these are points that I leave for students to write about and for professors like me who will use this novel as an illustration of how a cadre of contemporary women writers are the new killers.

Pro-lifers who are more activist, such as protesters outside the offices of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, will be greatly encouraged by two statements in the “Author’s Note” about the effectiveness of pro-life picketing.  “Despite our best efforts to shield patients,” Waller writes, “they can’t help but notice the protesters” (224).  Waller testifies to the effectiveness of pro-life protesters again when she writes that “the political anti-choice [pro-life] movement is strong.  There are protesters at nearly every abortion clinic” (225).  Great work, activists!

While the novel can be read in several hours, it’s still feeble.  Pro-life activists, however, can use it as further evidence that anti-life authors continue to use the same standard and tiresome literary strategies to dehumanize the unborn child.

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