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

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

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

Heather Marshall’s Looking for Jane (Atria Books, 2022)

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What would have been a great story about a child conceived from rape being reunited with her birth mother is reduced to pro-abortion propaganda with a needless lesbian twist.

Despite this catastrophic flaw, while it is a propaganda piece more than a work of fiction, Marshall’s work can be used by the worldwide pro-life movement to support pro-life feminists in their fight against abortion and other life-destroying activities.

For example, Marshall’s propaganda effort claims that pregnancy resulting from “circumstances like rape or incest” are “often horrific”, yet the author is blissfully (or ironically) unaware that one of her two main characters, Nancy, is a grown woman who was once an unborn child conceived from the rape of her mother.  Nancy escaped being killed for the crime of her father because abortion was illegal in Canada when she was born and because Nancy’s grandparents brought her mother to a home for unwed mothers negatively described as “just one big well-oiled machine” (84).

Another major irony in Marshall’s depiction of life-denying abortion propaganda is that Evelyn Taylor, an abortionist in the network of clandestine abortionists called the Janes, aborted her own grandchild.  The mother who comes to her for the purpose of killing the unborn child is, unbeknownst to her, her own daughter Nancy.  Evelyn will eventually realize—ten pages from the end of this verbose work—that she performed an abortion on her daughter, but never acknowledges the fact that she killed her own grandchild.

The 372 pages which constitute this apologia for abortion wrongs has several problems, four of which are significant.  First, having two main characters as married lesbians who undergo artificial insemination is worthless as character attributes.  In fact, having Angela and Tina in a committed relationship, albeit a distorted lesbian one, seeking to have children, although in a disordered manner, undercuts the author’s obvious leftist and woke philosophy.  (Marshall twice uses the phrases “pregnant person” once and “women and pregnant people” twice in her “Author’s Note”, a clear sign that she adopts the woke distortion of science which asserts that biological males can become pregnant; see pages 379-81.)  If anything, these lesbian characters support heterosexual normativity since their “marriage” leads to the happy event of children, which is the desired result of the sexual pleasure enjoyed by every heterosexual marriage.

A second serious problem of this abortion diatribe is that many characters are flat and function as allegories more than representations of real human beings.  The nun who ran the home for unwed mothers where the future abortionist Evelyn gave her child up for adoption is depicted as pure evil, derisively called “The Watchdog” throughout.  No human character can ever be pure evil as Satan, not even the American criminals Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or (to honor Marshall’s setting) the Canadian abortion zealot Justin Trudeau.  Similarly, Canada’s abortion activist Henry Morgentaler is treated like a hero or a saint instead of the killer that he was (cf. 129-30).

A possible exception to this objection, however, is that Nancy may have round character traits when she realizes that post-abortion syndrome (PAS) contributed to a significant failure in her life: the secret of her adoption, her clandestine work for the Janes, and hiding her abortion from her husband are reasons for her eventual divorce.  Pro-life sociologists have documented the effects of PAS on women for decades, and it’s good that Marshall depicts a woman suffering from that psychological disorder because of her pro-abortion activity.

A third problem of this sometimes tedious attempt to enshrine abortion concepts in the reader’s mind is that anti-life slogans interfere with the story, which is essentially the effort of a birth mother to find her daughter.  For example, characters offer the usual claptrap that abortion is “just like any other surgery or treatment” (118) or ask the flaccid rhetorical question “Yet aren’t fertility clinics and abortion clinics just two sides of the same coin?” (119).

Worse, the characters perpetuate the philosophical error of thinking that mothers have no choice when faced with an untimely pregnancy besides abortion.  For example, Nancy thinks that abortion is necessary: “But you have to do this, she tells herself” (183; italics in original).  She thinks that having an abortion is “the keystone of her future” and that “abortion is the first step to setting herself back on track” (183).

This mantra of “choice” interrupts the narrative often.  Regarding her working with the Janes, Nancy “revels in the knowledge that she’s helping other women gain power over their own lives” (232-3) and that abortionists are “all about choice” (286).  Even the tired and dated slogan used by abortion businesses (like Planned Parenthood) is trotted out to prop up the choice element: “Every child a wanted child, every mother a willing mother” (305; italics in original).

What a terribly sad narrative of terribly sad women who think that harming themselves in abortion, killing the unborn babies whom they are carrying, and alienating the fathers of the unborn children are the only “choices” they have.

A final problem of Marshall’s narrative is that it completely ignores efforts by pro-life pregnancy support groups to meet the need that Canadian women had for assistance with their untimely pregnancies.  Marshall’s chronologically-shifting work is set in Toronto from the 1970s onward, so it is either pure ignorance or abortion propaganda on the author’s part to omit the moral and material support that the pro-life organization Birthright, founded in the metropolitan Toronto area in 1968, began offering to women facing untimely pregnancies.

But then, pro-abortion writers must often disregard pro-life history since pro-life groups like Birthright assist the mother and the unborn child.  All an abortionist can do is kill one and harm the other.

Despite these serious flaws, pro-life activists can use Marshall’s myopic view of Canadian abortion history to advance life-affirming principles.

For example, although the reader must consider the source (an author who has completely bought into the pro-abortion and woke nonsense), Marshall apparently does not realize that she uses the same reasoning to support abortion that slaveholders used to justify the subjugation of African human beings: property rights.  An interesting passage from the “Author’s Note” makes this clear: “it [the unborn child] still resided inside my body.  /  My.  Body” ([373]-4; italics in original).  Thus, the support for abortion among woke activists and anti-life feminists is extremely tenuous if they must rely on a legal concept (slavery) which is abhorrent to the world.

Moreover, the five questions of right-to-life literary theory can be applied to show the vapidity of Marshall’s work.  For example, regarding the first question of right-to-life literary theory (whether the literary work supports the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless is clear): it doesn’t.  The only philosophical value that Marshall endorses repeatedly, ad nauseam, is the ambiguous “choice”—not the choice of free will or the ability to choose spumoni over chocolate ice cream, but an outdated legal opinion of a now defunct Roe v. Wade decision that allowed some mothers to kill unborn babies because those unique human beings were considered mere property of their mothers, like a purse or a car.

The second question of right-to-life literary theory (whether the literary work respects the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life) is just as easily answered: nyet again!  It is only the life of the woman who is superior to the life of the man or the life of the unborn child who is gendered either male or female.  That pro-abortion persons cannot perceive this distortion of equality between the sexes is remarkable, given all their assertions of equality throughout the last half century.  Thus, pro-life readers can point to Marshall’s polemic as evidence that it isn’t equality that pro-abortion feminists want for women, but dominance over men.

The third question of right-to-life literary theory (whether the literary work respects heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family) can be answered affirmatively, if only because of contrast.  The desire of the lesbian “married” couple to have a successful artificial insemination of an unborn child reinforces the heterosexual normativity which their abuse of the marriage covenant implies.  If the lesbians were genuinely opposed to heterosexual normativity, then they would not seek marriage (a heterosexual practice) and would not seek to have a child (the result of a heterosexual union).

The fourth question of right-to-life literary theory (whether the literary work comports with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist) is obvious: the characters conclude that abortion is not merely a choice, but a right that women have to kill.

Finally, regarding the fifth question of right-to-life literary theory (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), the reader becomes painfully aware that these pro-abortion characters live carpe diem lives.  Evelyn is explicit in her rejection of religious concepts; she “hasn’t believed in any kind of god for decades now, and she doesn’t subscribe to the concept of fate.  Life is simply too cruel for those things to exist” (368).  The other pro-abortion characters, however, are blissfully unaware of any other force in the universe besides their own impersonal adherence to the nebulous idea of “choice”; the ancient universals of beauty, goodness, and truth are absent as philosophical notions which could guide their irreligious, secular lives.

While Marshall’s work need not be purchased (after all, why would anybody spend his or her pro-life dollars on a literary work whose author funds leftist and woke groups?), 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.

But then, I read it so that you don’t have to.

Book reviews

Brett Attebery’s Your Pro-Life Bottom Line (2022)

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Slightly repetitious, Attebery’s work presents solid ideas on how pro-life crisis pregnancy support centers in the Dobbs era of pro-life activism should adopt business principles to protect women from the Planned Parenthood abortion company.

Pressed for time?  Then every pro-life activist should read pages 14-17 for a glossary of business terms which pertain to pro-life activism.  Similarly, reading the executive summaries (called the “Bottom Line” of each chapter) on pages 26-34 would be sufficient to understand Attebery’s thesis (that pro-life pregnancy support centers should be run as businesses to achieve more success against abortion businesses such as Planned Parenthood).

Reading the entire book, however, will elaborate the executive summaries in a colloquial manner.

Pro-lifers can object to his claim that crisis pregnancy centers should receive more funding than legacy pro-life organizations which work for changing laws and electing pro-life candidates.  Instead of shifting such funding in an either/or dichotomy, pro-lifers should increase funding using a both/and philosophy.  However, Attebery’s book was written before the fall of Roe v. Wade, so he may not have been aware at the time of writing of the continuing need to financially support the supply side of the abortion/pro-life war as well as the demand side.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from the other source listed on Attebery’s website:

Book reviews

Bonnie Martin’s Poppy (2022)

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Despite lugubrious paragraphs and static characters, Martin’s novel illustrates how ignorant twenty-first century young people could be about the abortion wars of the past half century before they become pro-life activists.

The paragraphs are often pages long; even dialogue is encased in the solid paragraphs and not written in lines like other novels.  Why the author chose to compose such lugubrious text cannot be determined.  Maybe she was striving to match a stream-of-consciousness of an ordinary teenaged girl?

Also, the characters are more static than dynamic.  Poppy is always obedient to her mother (slight rolling of the eyes notwithstanding).  Tucker, her classmate with whom she discusses the pro-life topics ventured in the novel, is not merely a typical handsome high school senior, but a well-balanced young man who is a faithful Catholic, pro-life activist at a crisis pregnancy center, and just a good boy.  Perhaps his only fault is that he touches his mass of hair too often.  Can any young man be that pure and holy and dripping with righteousness?  Slightly incredible say I.

Some scenes are depicted beautifully, such as the disclosure of the body of the abandoned baby (pages 250ff), which is a damning example of the callousness that some have of newborn human life.  That episode, however, concerns infanticide more than feticide, the early area of concern that Poppy has, or abortion, which she later realizes is her primary social justice issue.

While the seasoned pro-life activist would wonder how such sweet innocents, raised in a culture of high technology as ours, could be so ignorant about the controversy regarding the right to life of the unborn child, maybe that is Martin’s purpose: to reach similarly ignorant, naïve, or just plain simple-minded young teenaged girls who come to the abortion issue without the benefit of knowing the movement’s history of five decades.  If this is the author’s intent, then she may succeed with that reading demographic.


Tracking the extremist Ohio abortion ballot initiative

Civil rights/pro-life activists:

You can follow the progress on defeating the extremist abortion proposal to Ohio’s constitution here:


Translation: abortion clinics are in it for the money.

Well, well…what have we here?  Evidence that pro-life pregnancy support clinics help women more than abortion clinics, which, like Planned Parenthood, promote abortion because of the $$$ they make off women.


Video of activity of an unborn person

These are the unborn people—human beings like you and me—whom the violently pro-abortion Joe Biden, the Satanic Temple, and the Democratic Party/DNC (forgive me for being redundant) want to kill.

Thank God there’s a pro-life movement to counter this violation of human rights!

Always remember: abortion harms women, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers.

Book reviews

Daniel J. Sullivan’s An Introduction to Philosophy: Perennial Principles of the Classical Realist Tradition (TAN Books, 2009; originally published 1957)

This 1957 masterpiece can help beleaguered conservative and pro-life people in 2023 understand how leftists (either ignorant of or deliberately opposed to basic philosophy) attempt to destroy contemporary society.

I found so much of this work significant that I have annotated (either by underlining, adding parallel lines in the margins, or drawing stars of David) virtually all pages, so repeating those annotations here would be repetitious to the extreme.  However, the few comments which follow may be of particular interest to conservatives and pro-life activists concerned about, among other topics, the delusions of gender activists and anti-life/pro-abortion ideas.

For example, I think everyone has read about or seen on social media the lunacy of gender activists who claim that a man can become a woman merely by (poof!) claiming to be one.  The mental illness of transgender activists doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with biological reality, a foundation principle of Western philosophy.

Sullivan’s comments throughout the book about reality being the basis of philosophical speculation should therefore encourage those who argue rightfully that there are two genders and that no cacophonous rage shouting by a transgender person that he is female can overcome reality.

In short, dealt with it, buddy.  You have a penis and a scrotum containing two testes.  Enjoy being a man.

Similarly, abortion wrongs activists have argued that the unborn child is not a person (which is, apparently, a legal term more than a philosophical one).  In philosophical terms, this is comparable to saying that the unborn child is not a being in his or her own right.  This rejection of science is necessary if abortion zealots want to force all of us to accept their anti-human philosophy.

Again, Sullivan’s comments about being, which are passim, can help pro-life persons counter those deluded souls who think that human life doesn’t begin with the reality of fertilization.  Personhood, existence, or being isn’t granted to someone just because (poof!) his or her mother thinks so.  The right to life, the right to exist, is an essential, inherent aspect of our humanity.

In short (yes, I know: the second one in this review), pro-abortion zealots should therefore shut up already and accept the reality that a pregnant woman carries another human being and that both mother and unborn child deserve our love and protection.

Reading Sullivan’s work can be disturbing for many.  For example, Protestant Christians may ineluctably conclude that their denomination’s “Reformation” wasn’t that as much as a divorce from a coherent philosophy begun in the ancient pagan world through solid logical reasoning and refined by Western (Catholic) Christian saints for 1,500 years.  The subjectivism of the Protestant mindset would lead to the nihilism of today, and all of us suffer from that five-hundred year rupture from reality and sound logical thinking.

Likewise, a second major disturbing result of Sullivan’s work is that many would reject philosophical study because it is infused with ideas and terms developed by the Roman Catholic Church.  American Catholics know well that anti-Catholicism is a vibrant force, not only in the area of respect for life, but in virtually all of society.  Therefore, the reader may despair that many in contemporary culture could remain ignorant of the structure and depth of philosophical principles simply because such profundity is rejected by their anti-Catholic bigotry.

Fortunately, though, there is hope that conservative young people will not only resurrect the sound philosophical conclusions reached by scholars like Sullivan, but also live their lives according to those principles.  Two instances can justify this hope.

Philosophical proofs for the existence of God?  St. Thomas Aquinas makes as much sense in the twenty-first century as he did in the thirteenth.

Can the old-fashioned virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice still apply in this utterly technological twenty-first century?  Stifled by sexual immorality; families consisting not of mothers and fathers but a mother and various baby daddies; and politicians like the fake Catholic Joe Biden supporting abortion, which harms women, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers: all of these social realities testify to the relevance of these, not so much old-fashioned, but ancient virtues which have guided human beings in prehistoric cultures to our own.

Though brief for an introduction to a major field of study (280 pages of text, followed by extensive reading lists and an index), Sullivan’s work takes time to read, digest, and understand, so prepare at least a month for delving into his summary of 2,500 years of Western philosophy.

The presence of an index is a major benefit.  As many TAN Books customers know, works published by that firm often do not have indices, making it extremely difficult for students and faculty to conduct research without wasting time flipping through pages, hunting for a term or name.

Finally, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from TAN Publishers directly: