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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall

Marshall's debut historical fiction centers around women's searches for body autonomy in three timelines of interconnected characters and their stories.

It all comes down to having the right to make the choice. Every child a wanted child, every mother a willing mother.

Looking for Jane is a story of women living in three timelines who are linked through decades by a mysterious letter--and by enormously important, recurring dilemmas for women through the ages: unexpected pregnancies; searches (and fights) for bodily autonomy and securing their health; and weighty choices with repercussions that reverberate.

In this historical fiction, Marshall explores the goings-on at 1960s unwed mothers' homes in Canada--based upon actual first-person accounts of practices, cruelties, and secrets and lies at such homes in the U.S. and Canada.

The female characters' stories are deeply intertwined; I saw some of the events coming but not others, and I didn't mind predicting portions of where the story was going.

But the broader story here is about body autonomy, women's rights, dangerously powerful social perceptions, men's lack of equivalent responsibility for the activities of their sperm as compared to women and their eggs', and females' age-old, often fearful, sometimes deadly searches for freedom of choice and self-determination.

The three timelines allow Marshall to showcase how situations have changed through the decades for women seeking options after pregnancy, while her author's note references recent rollbacks in US women's legal abilities to control what happens to their bodies.

Through it all, Marshall sets up realistic emotional barriers for characters who have had to hide parts of themselves away; she doesn't shy away from sharing the sometimes-tragic outcomes of pregnant women's desperate searches for a say-so in their fates; and she places each story within the events and details of its timeline.

I received a prepublication edition of this book, published February 7, courtesy of NetGalley and Atria Books.

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Looking for Jane is Heather Marshall's debut novel.

For more books I've Bossily reviewed featuring strong women, please click here.


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