Waiting for the Miracle
The heartbreaking new novel from the bestselling author of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
by Anna McPartlin
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 10 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 11 Jun 2021
Bonnier Books UK, Zaffre
Anna McPartlin's new novel is a powerful and emotional exploration of motherhood, filled with unique and unforgettable characters, as funny as it is moving, and as poignant as it is wise.
Caroline has hit rock bottom. After years of trying, it's clear she can't have children, and the pain has driven her and her husband apart. She isn't pregnant, her husband is gone and her beloved dog is dead. The other women at her infertility support group have their own problems, too. Natalie's girlfriend is much less excited about having children than her. Janet's husband might be having an affair. And then there's Ronnie, intriguing, mysterious Ronnie, who won't tell anyone her story.
Catherine is sixteen and pregnant. Her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her, and her parents are ashamed. When she's sent away to a convent for pregnant girls, she is desperate not to be separated from her child. But she knows she might risk losing the baby forever.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 42 members
Raw, Real... Painfully Relatable - A Must Read I have long been a fan of Anna McPartlin's writing. Her novel, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes sucked me in from the first page, and I only recently read Below the Big Blue Sky (which, I devoured in a single day!). So, when I was asked to read and review Waiting for the Miracle for this blog tour, I was more than happy to oblige. It's a tough job really when you have to find time to read a book in the sun and call it 'work'. Reading this beautiful novel was not hard work at all. In fact, it was a privilege. This expertly crafted story weaves two narratives so seamlessly that you are left believing this story was only ever meant to be told this way. As if this story was born on the page, and it simply being relayed to us by a skilled storyteller over pot of tea with a blanket tucked over your lap. Most novelists aim for this to be the case, but in my opinion, there are only a few authors who truly execute the effortlessness that McPartlin achieves with her storytelling. The setting, historical references, and emotion help her achieve this. At its heart, this is a story that taps into something deeply rooted in so many mothers across the globe. It explores the expectations we all have of motherhood. The internal and external struggles we all compete with. That idea that we still think we should fight to 'have it all'. We live in a society now that makes us believe we can. That we can choose a career, put our family ideas on pause, and decide when it's the right time to have a child. When, in reality, so few of us get the chance to choose when life throws us curve balls. Having a child is not a given, and although infertility (in all its different guises) is a really tough subject to tackle, Anna McPartlin does it with care. Part of me doesn't want to go into too much detail in this review - I don't want to skew anyone's opinion, I want you to pick up this book and read it from cover to cover.. not because I told you to, but because I think everyone should. Because it tackles history, pain, and expectation. Because stories like this deserve to be written into the history books so we never forget. Catherine's story takes place in 1970's Ireland, in a time when if you found yourself 'with child' as a young girl, there was an easy fix for that. You would simply be placed with the Nuns of the Catholic Church, but don't expect to have a choice over what happens to you in there. Catherine finds herself pregnant, and rather than being protected by those she loves, her parents and even the baby's father turn their back on her. The nuns plan to take her child away from her, but Catherine is determined not to let that happen. The problem is, despite our own beliefs these days that it's a mother's choice, back then (and it really wasn't that long ago) they had no choice at all. So many children were 'lost' into a system that even their own mothers fought against. Catherine fought. She was determined not to have her baby sold or adopted. She wanted her child. But life wasn't that easy back then. Despite praying, to all the saints she can think of, for one small miracle to help her keep her baby, life in Catholic Ireland in the '70s was never going to make that easy. Catherine's story really affected me. I was raised Catholic myself, and the sins of the Catholic Church are never far from my mind, but to read such raw emotions surrounding the pain and abuse done 'in the name of religion' makes me so incredibly sad. I won't deny that I shed a few tears. This story gets under your skin, mostly because we know these stories are real. It's no secret that so many girls/young women found themselves in similar situations. We hear stories all the time from those who spent a lifetime searching for their 'lost children'. Yes - this is a dual timelines novel, but the 'past' doesn't feel that long ago. The 70's really wasn't that long ago and the pain on the pages of this timeline still stings, it still feels real and raw. In 2010, we meet Caroline, Ronnie, Janet, and Nancy. Each struggling with their own battles. IVF, sperm donor issues and Molar pregnancies see these women struggle to get the one thing they really want. Then there's Ronnie, the American who could raise a smile one moment and raise heckles the next. Different women, with different stories and personalities thrown together in a support group that facilitates an important friendship and support system for each of them. When you are dealing with a dual timeline, and then multiple characters and relationships all in one book, you run the risk of not truly connecting with all the characters on the page, but Anna McPartlin works so well with her cleverly crafted (and often humorous) dialogue that you turn the pages knowing every character equally, invested in each of their lives in different ways. The truth is, each of these women is praying for a miracle. Each of these women hope that someone or something will fix their world for them and give them the one thing they truly want, but will any of them receive a miracle from above or will they find it within themselves? Anna's books are always expertly written, highly emotional, and thought-provoking. Her latest has lived up to all of the above and more. Waiting for the Miracle is delicate in its approach. Considered. Raw and real but gentle. Like a hug from a best friend after a heartbreaking ordeal. It is everything I expected and so much more. I urge you to read this book. Have a box of tissues nearby, but devour it and then pass it on. It's a book that deserves to be read. Many Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers and Zaffre Books for inviting us on this Blog Tour. Waiting for the Miracle is published by: Zaffre Books ISBN:978-183877-389-2
A story of hope over heartbreak told with Irish humour and charm. For friends Caroline, Janet, Natalie and Ronnie, motherhood is a distant dream. They meet at a self-help group for women desperate for a baby, and soon form a close-knit bond, supporting each other not just through the perils and pitfalls of IVF treatment, miscarriages and artificial insemination, but also though the emotional fallout their constantly dashed dreams have on their relationships with partners and family. Caroline’s husband Dave feels second-best. Janet suspects her husband of having an affair, and Natalie is beginning to believe her partner, Linda, isn’t fully committed to a baby. Ronnie, meanwhile, keeps her reasons for joining the group secret. As their stories unfold, another is told, that of 17-year-old Catherine, single, pregnant and at the mercy of the nuns in the Irish convent where she is sent to give birth in 1976. Like our present-day heroines, she is determined to be a mother, and fights tooth and nail for her child in the face of her family’s indifference and society’s cruel disapproval. This story takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, from sharing the heartache and hopes of Caroline and her fellow mums-in-waiting, to experiencing Catherine’s anguish and heartbreak as she realises she is truly on her own in her battle against authority. And yet you’ll be laughing through your tears at the sharp and funny dialogue as the narrative toggles between past and present, exposing the disgraceful history of how single mothers were once treated while exploring how, even in our times, achieving happiness through motherhood isn’t ever easy for too many women.
Another fantastic story from Anna Partlin which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and can whole heartedly recommend. The subject of infertility is sensitively addressed so I can see that it has been fully researched. The story is divided into two plotlines which I liked. Catherines story from 1976 begins when she is sent away to a convent for pregnant girls at the tender age of 16. Then there is the other tale of four women who just seem to gravitate together at an infertility meeting they attend in 2010. What all of these characters share is their bravery, loneliness and desperate to tell their stories. I was totally engrossed with each of them and their lives but it was Catherines one that had the most impact for me as the fear that she endured after her abhorrent treatment by the Nuns will stay with me. Just two words to describe this book bloody brilliant! My thanks to Net Galley for the digital ARC . A worthy 5 star rating.
Question-why is it only now that I am hearing about this quite incredible author? I feel I should hand in my library cards, sack myself as a self confessed reader and go back to school, this amazing book will change lives, leave you feeling bereft , stunned and fully intending to plunder her back catalogue. Honestly not even sure where to begin with how to describe the pure joy and release that reading 'Waiting For The Miracle' brings? Maybe here- ''Who the fuck leaves their wife on a Tuesday?'' Weaving two seamless narratives, from the not so distant past and the present, in 2010, this is a deeply moving and well constructed meditation on the internal, and external, expectations of motherhood. Taking Ireland as the back drop, in itself a character in the novel, the story explores the way in which farm girl Catherine, is used and discarded and ultimately abandoned in the 'care' of a local institution for girls who find themselves in the family way. In 2010, the women who meet at a group for those undergoing IVF, and other ways of making their dreams of having a family come true, find themselves connecting in an all together unexpected way. Catherine's narrative is absolutely devastating-her family, her town, the boy who got her pregnant, all leave her frightened and alone. Her strength to keep going in the face of unimaginable terror just alternately enrages and suffocates you, you feel her terror so keenly and relate the suffering to the horrendous, and still emerging, scandals of the Irish Catholic church selling babies. Families paid for them to take their errant family members, paid to have them back when they had been 'cured of their wilfulness' and the nuns pocketed the money they received in the sales of children to 'real mothers', often overseas. The late 70's is not ancient history, there was the availability of contraception and access to abortions in mainland England, however, the alternatives for young girls who 'found themselves with child' (it was never the fault of the male, of course) were unthinkable, heart-breaking and often fatal. That Catherine not only stands up for herself and demands to keep her baby is an astonishing feat of will power, she is adamant that her child will not be sold or given away. Her prayers to the saint of lost souls, St Jude, are for such a small miracle, to be allowed to keep her child. But the harsh reality of being a single parent in late 70's/early 80's Ireland are far from an attainable. In 2010, Caroline, Nancy, Janet and Ronnie, things are very different. Caroline and husband Dave have agreed the toll of IVF is too much and the last attempt was the very last one. Except Caroline is still holding out for the tiniest miracle that Dave will change his mind... Nancy and her partner, Linda, are hoping to use her twin Paul's sperm so that their IVF baby will have both their DNA. Is this just a little too close for comfort in the familial relations stakes? Janet and her husband Jim have had multiple miscarriages followed by a Molar Pregnancy which has devastated them both. Do they have anything left to try again? And then there is newcomer Ronnie, an American who breezes in and has a Marmite effect on the friends. But is there more to her than meets the eye? As the dual time lines come together, you find yourself completely immersed in the voices of the women-their fight and conflict to have a child is detailed so thoroughly and realistically, and yet , there is such a sense of humour that I think comes out in the darkest of situations. For example, I got the biggest belly laugh at Janet and Jim calling their molar pregnancy 'Derek', after his father,because he is a major pain in the arse. As the women rationalise, their chances of having a baby are 1:3, 1 of them could be lucky. But which one? The way that Anna writes is so brilliantly simple and clever, she captures not only the dialogue between several different types of couples but that of a group of women so succinctly that you can see all the characters vividly. And whilst Catherine's story is a lynchpin of the story of how it can be to have a baby when you step outside the rigid rules of a patriarchal society leaving the woman tarnished, and the man spotlessly clean, the process of patriarchal bargaining takes place with the nuns and the girls' mothers as much as it does in the way that the men uphold their virtue. The expectations on women to choose between career and children, the notion of having it all and being able to pick and choose when to have a child is so fraught with so very many potholes that sometimes I am genuinely amazed we ever even had any. The odds of you being you are so astronomical that to choose to push down and denigrate a non traditional family, an alternative family unit, or not help those in need of support is sincerely baffling. The tears will flow long and hard reading about the abuses done in the name of religion, which stills affects so many thousands of displaced women and childless mothers to this very day. And maybe, the miracle that each of these women were waiting for, already existed within themselves as they fought to be the best version of themselves that they could be, whether they were parents or not. The fact that Catherine's child did not leave the Institution with her does not negate her love or her mission to let her child know she was loved. This is a truly spectacular novel on so many fronts, I urge you to read it!
I loved Rabbit Hayes and its sequel so much that I was almost nervous to read Anna McPartlin's latest novel. But I should have known that it wouldn't disappoint. Waiting for the Miracle is filled with the highs and lows of a wonderful cast of characters and it's a truly wonderful read.