When we were discussing what books to read in our Starbucks book club, I knew what I wanted to suggest: Delivery by Betty Jane Hegerat. I had been waiting for this book to come out since reading her first novel, Running Toward Home.
Betty Jane graciously provided me with a review copy of her novel, so I’m now ahead of my book club, who are still waiting for their copies to arrive. This book is definitely going on my bookshelf and my “best of 2010″ book list.
Betty Jane’s second novel is about choices, adoption, motherhood, family, friends. In Delivery (October 2009, ISBN 978-088982-257-3), she explores how a mother and a daughter feel about the arrival of the daughter’s out-of-wedlock baby. Both women must come to terms with their choices and feelings as they struggle to find a solution to the situation.
Lynn arrives at a friend’s cabin on Quadra Island, BC, with her baby granddaughter in a laundry basket and no plan. All she knows is that she cannot hand the baby over to the adoptive parents as her daughter Heather asked her to. Back in Calgary, Heather is trying to deal with her post-baby body and her decision—until she realizes what her mother has done.
Eventually, nearly everyone in the novel arrives out at the cabin on Quadra Island. The novel revolves around Lynn and Heather, though other characters support or challenge them. Einar is the big, quiet man whose cabin Lynn has run to for refuge; Marty is Heather’s partying, girlfriend-hunting brother, who remains mostly a voice on the phone as Heather keeps him updated; and Jack is Lynn’s ex-husband, Heather’s dad, a no-nonsense type man who has a plan for everything, including Heather’s baby. But these men remain peripheral characters in this story focused on women and their experience of motherhood.
For Heather, as much as she is an outspoken, sarcastic woman who preferred dog-walking as a teen to babysitting, finds that she has a drive to mother. Just as her body responds to her daughter’s cry with milk, her heart responds with love. Giving up the baby for adoption seems the most practical solution—yet the hardest. And so she wavers throughout the novel, resisting advice, resisting her heart.
At the end of the novel, Betty Jane offers no firm conclusion, no happily ever after. Heather makes a choice, but the reader is left to interpret that choice as they will. In a way, that’s like life; a little messy, with lots of possibilities. As Susan Plett, another reader and adoptive mother, said: “I want to make [Delivery] required reading for everyone who has ever said ‘Well good for you!’ in response to ‘My children are adopted.’ … I so strongly appreciated the fact that you make it clear that there are no easy answers.”
Betty Jane Hegerat holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is currently an instructor at the University of Calgary and the Alexandra Writer’s Centre Society. She writes about the places around her, places that her Canadian readers will be familiar with. Her earlier works include her debut novel Running Toward Home (2006) and a collection of short stories, A Crack in the Wall (2008).