Novel examines psychological impacts of abortion
Comeback Love by Peter Golden; Washington Square Press of Simon & Schuster; 2010; ISBN 978-1-4516-5632-9; 294 pages, $15.
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO –If you accept the book jacket summary, this novel “is an evocative journey into the hearts of two lovers who came of age in the 1960s, and who never truly let each other go.” Well, yes, but that’s just the plot device that allows author Golden to explore much deeper and touchier subjects. This is a book about our insecurities, our mortality, our use of sexuality, and about abortion.
Gordon, a budding writer, interviews Glenna, a medical student, about her role in a campaign to legalize abortion; why she believes women, not a male-centric society, should make the decisions about whether a child should be aborted or not. Glenna tells Gordon about the women whose lives are ruined, sometimes ended, as a result of back-alley abortions. It is an unlikely discussion to spark romance, but it does. The two are attracted to each other. And before long they move in together, their hearts full, their lovemaking frequent and passionate.
Glenna is beautiful, smart, accomplished–seemingly everything that a young woman could aspire to be. But she is insecure, fearful that she is loved only because of her looks and her accomplishments, not really for her inner self. Her insecurity, more than conviction, may be a factor in her pro-abortion stand. Among a peer group that is even willing to break the law to make the procedure available, she squelches her doubts.
Although confilcted, Glenna participates in a clinic that provides illegal abortions but — like President Bill Clinton never inhaling a marijuana cigarette–Glenna doesn’t abort fetuses with recognizable human features. She simply cleans the thickening walls of the uteruses of women who recently had sexual intercourse and who fear they may have become pregnant. The procedure precludes the growth of an embryo, and Glenna considers it to be a form of post-intercourse contraception rather than abortion.
However, she cannot forever so insulate herself from some central questions about abortion. Seeing girl after girl, woman after woman, coming to the clinic, their male partners nowhere to be seen, prompts her to conclude bitterly that for men, women are just sperm receptacles. Things get worse when her frequent love-making with Gordon leads to her own pregancy. She decides for abortion, and soon thereafter she ends her first relationship with Gordon, and reexamines everything about herself, including her career choice and sexual preferences.
In introducing us to the young couple, author Golden also introduces us to Glenna’s friends, one a female who wants to seduce Gordon; another a male whose passion for Glenna is unrequited. We also meet Glenna’s and Gordon’s parents and come to understand some of Glenna’s insecurities.
All the foregoing is background to the “comeback” part of the plot, when Gordon, years later divorced from another woman and worried about the mortality of his son, tracks down Glenna, who is a widow and a pediatrician.
With all that transpired between them, with so many things that they left unsaid, can they kindle honest and abiding love?
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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