A Better Woman: A Memoir

A Better Woman: A Memoir

by Susan Johnson
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Acclaimed novelist Susan Johnson found, at age thirty-five, that her desire to have a baby became overwhelming. She had no inkling what motherhood would cost -- or give -- her. But as she went on to experience pregnancy and birth, and their impact on her marriage, health, and heart, she recorded it all. In this hauntingly lovely account, Johnson portrays a woman… See more details below

Overview

Acclaimed novelist Susan Johnson found, at age thirty-five, that her desire to have a baby became overwhelming. She had no inkling what motherhood would cost -- or give -- her. But as she went on to experience pregnancy and birth, and their impact on her marriage, health, and heart, she recorded it all. In this hauntingly lovely account, Johnson portrays a woman transformed by motherhood, and a writer forever changed by a widening chasm of experience. Her initial ecstasy jostles against bewilderment, rage, and despair, however, when she develops a rare complication of childbirth; she is "a one-woman catastrophe, a small ruined country." She is also burning to get words on paper. The result, A Better Woman, should be required reading for every woman hungry to give birth -- and every mother yearning to have her deepest feelings heard.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Australian novelist Johnson covers an astonishing amount of territory in this seemingly simple story of new motherhood. Belonging to a generation of women who imagined themselves in complete control of their bodies and their lives, she writes, "My body was the vessel in which I sailed, and I never once imagined it capsizing." But capsize it did, and she articulates the ravages wreaked upon her person, marriage and life in a voice at once literate and excruciatingly intimate. Chronicling a tale of two pregnancies in quick succession in her late 30s (medically considered old for first-time mothers), a resulting rare complication of childbirth requiring several surgeries to repair, Johnson lays bare her broken body, sharp mind and alternately wounded and soaring heart. Admitting that she writes about things she has not dared to speak of even to close friends, she explains, "only in my writing am I free to express the unutterable." With a fresh economy of words, Johnson omits nothing, from the weary breach in her marital relationship to the all-consuming nature of new parenthood; from the financial woes of freelance writing to the assistance she receives from Australian maternal health centers that American mothers can only envy. She expertly weaves raw emotion and physical agony with insightful musings on being a woman, daughter, wife, mother and writer. Johnson provides an affecting memoir of loss and pain, strength and survival, fear and despair, love and joy. She successfully captures the unique season of her life that made her "a better woman," through both the living and the writing of it. Agent, Margaret Connolly. (Apr. 9) Forecast: The simultaneous publication of Johnson's novel, Hungry Ghosts (Forecasts, Feb. 18), should keep the media's eye on this author; she's a perfect candidate for women's TV and online programs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Before she had children, Australian novelist Johnson believed that she could easily juggle pen and paper with formula and nappies. But the real story here is not so much her attempt to manage motherhood and work as it is her ability to do all that while coping with an injury she sustained during childbirth. She describes how a fistula (a tiny tunnel running from the inside of her anus to the inside of her vagina), created by a third-degree tear, caused her physical and emotional distress postpartum. Told in crisp, writerly prose, her story is as poignant as it is aggravating this reviewer could not believe that Johnson was not more bitter toward her national healthcare doctors, who instructed her to walk with the tear to another wing of the hospital to breast-feed her baby. While Johnson seems to take her injury in stride as merely a terrible byproduct of a beautiful miracle, one hopes that her story teaches others to question the authority of doctors. A good addition to larger collections, especially where there is interest in birth-related complications. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From Australian novelist Johnson (Hungry Ghosts, p. 128, etc.), a beautifully written and remarkably wise look at the realities of becoming a mother, as well as at the unexpected physical consequences of giving birth. Johnson transforms what could be a conventional motherhood-survival story into an often transcendent tale of how she "became a better woman" as her life was enriched and deepened by the experience of giving birth. Until she was 35, Johnson had lived as she pleased, writing and living where she liked. But as she drove through France, her "arms began to feel empty." Though she had regarded children with ambivalence, she suddenly "wanted to feel the weight of life . . . to enmesh [her]self in the fabric of living." Back in London, she married fellow Australian Les and in 1995, now 38 and pregnant, flew back to Australia, where their first son, Caspar, was born. Johnson vividly describes not only her fears about bearing a healthy baby as she raced to finish Hungry Ghosts, but also those extraordinary moments of maternal exultation: seeing in a face an entire universe; the poignant awareness of the "sweet, short time [when] the past and future do not exist . . . and not one single promise has gone unfulfilled"; and the conviction that nothing in her life, not even writing a novel, has made her feel as competent. Other typical but less exalted moments include trying to breastfeed, get enough sleep, write, and deal with her lack of money. She also developed a fistula in the rectal-vaginal area, which, after her second son was born 16 months later in a botched delivery, required surgery and a temporary colostomy so that her body could heal. A distinguished memoir: one of those rareinsights into motherhood that describes the magical and the mundane with equal insight and honesty.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743440097
Publisher:
Washington Square Press
Publication date:
05/11/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
2 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >