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by Lucy Ferriss

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Definitely not for the squeamish, Ferriss's (Against Gravity ) fourth novel opens with a graphic depiction of an abortion, or a "misconception," as the banned procedure is known in the year 2026. Narrator Phoebe Masters, the misconceiver of the title, struggles to fill the shoes of her mother, dead in a blast at an abortion clinic, and her older sister Marie, a misconceptionist who died in jail while awaiting trial. Although Phoebe is thoughtful enough to see a connection between her day job as a hunter of computer viruses and her illicit role as terminator of unwanted pregnancies, she doesn't have any true political conviction until she, too, is arrested and begins to understand the price of liberty. There's little apparent technological progress in this futuristic setting where married women do not work outside the home, amniocentesis is illegal and the worst punishment for rape is a paternity suit. It is as if social regression has also induced intellectual stagnation. While the repression of women in this society is at first presented matter-of-factly, the accretion of detail concerning their emotional and physical pain makes this far more than a merely political novel. "Sometimes... the decision is only about what way your heart is going to break, not whether," Phoebe muses. Phoebe's eventual understanding of how she will gain the courage to struggle against the complex web of inhumane policies adds tension and emotional catharsis. And her knowledge of how she will share her life has real poignancy. If in this novel Ferriss makes you think, she will also make you feel. (July)
Library Journal
Ferriss (Against Gravity, S. & S., 1996) paints a disturbing portrait of 21st-century America. After Roe v. Wade is overturned, women are forced to give birth or have illegal abortions performed by "misconceivers." Phoebe Chambers, like her mother and her sister, who has since been murdered, is a misconceiver. When she is arrested, she is thrown into a political and social tornado where she can trust no one. Although the story centers on a political issue, it focuses on one woman and her relationships with those around her. Phoebe must make peace with the past and choose whether to move forward or avenge her sister's death. Some of the supporting characters are not well developed, and the plot drags in spots. But overall this is an enjoyable read, especially for readers who like dystopic novels.Editha Ann Wilberton, Kansas City P.L., Kan.
Kirkus Reviews
A pleasantly unpolemical, if plodding, novel about a 21st-century abortionist who's haunted by the memory of her political-activist sister.

It's the year 2026, and the world is a Gingrichian vision of high-tech gadgetry and conservative social values. Abortion is illegal and birth control scarce—as much from fear of declining birth rates among the white middle class as from Christian moral precepts. In this repressive but nominally democratic America, Phoebe has a day job as a computer debugger; secretly, she performs "misconceptions," as illicit abortions are called. No abortion- rights crusader, Phoebe refers to her work as "killing babies" and continues mainly to carry on the legacy of her spirited older sister, Marie, a "misconceiver" who died in jail. Phoebe's brother and mother are also dead, and her father suffers from advanced Alzheimer's, so when the suicide of a 12-year-old incest victim throws her into a moral crisis, she turns to her widowed sister-in-law, Roxanne, for a place to lie low for a while. But while visiting Roxanne in California, Phoebe is moved by the plight of Roxanne's teenage daughter, Christel, who's facing an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of Roxanne's fiancé Arthur, a doctor, Phoebe performs an abortion on her niece—and Phoebe and Arthur begin an affair. Arriving back home in Utica, Phoebe is immediately arrested and must figure out who has betrayed her. Was it Arthur, one of the friends or colleagues in whom she's confided, or perhaps a traitor in the underground community of abortion providers? Then a fellow prisoner helps her escape, and Phoebe has to consider how far she wants to go in service of Marie's cause.

Ferriss (Against Gravity, 1996, etc.) worthily acknowledges the complexities of the abortion debate, and her dystopia, if not wildly original, is thoroughly imagined—yet ultimately the tale remains constrained by its narrow focus and muddled plot.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.85(w) x 8.88(h) x 1.15(d)

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