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Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar

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Amidst all the hysteria around Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict , it seems that few people have actually sat down and read the book. That's a shame, because it's likely that both sides of the pro-choice/pro-life debate would be surprised at what they find.

Vilar's memoir chronicles her childhood and matriculation into Syracuse University, where she, at age 16, falls in love with a professor 34 years older than she. During their romance, ensuing marriage, and divorce, she has 15 abortions in 16 years.

There's, not surprisingly, a deep thread of melancholia through Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict . Vilar writes of watching her mother commit suicide, of landing in a mental hospital, and of the manipulation of her husband, whom she calls her "master." The book is certainly not perfect - there's occasionally a sparseness to her prose; sometimes the chronology is confusing; and sometimes you want to whack the author over the head when she once again "forgets" to take her birth control pills. At the point where she almost kills her dog, I almost gave up on her.

When it comes to her pregnancies, Vilar never lets herself off the hook, writing that she abused a legal right. Yet it's also clear that she would have turned to desperate measures to end her pregnancies, and wouldn't be alive today if abortion was illegal. I would describe myself as an ardent feminist and pro-choice, but it's hard to read this book without feeling terribly sad about the series of bad decisions made by Vilar, and upset at the lack of support from her family.

Toward the end, Vilar becomes more passionate and in control over her own life. She admits her anger toward her mother and grandmother, and she looks at a sonogram of her daughter taken 18 weeks before birth and writes "it would have been permissible and possible to end her life at this point."

In no way is this a "fun" read, but it is a rare memoir that offers a glimpse into a world we'll never know or understand. It would be a great choice for a book club, as it is sure to provoke discussion. It's also recommended for any young woman feeling trapped in a relationship.

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