Both Cerise and Anna become pregnant at a young age and are forced to make decisions that will affect their futures. Cerise decides to keep her child and is drawn into a world of isolation as a single, unwed mother. Anna has an abortion and moves on to a successful life as a photographer. At first, it seems as if these two stories are completely separate, as if the author at any time could have chosen to craft two distinctly different novels. But it is soon evident that these women need each other, even if they don't know it yet.
Cerise's whole life is consumed with her daughter. She has no real identity without her role as mother because she hasn't had the time to figure out who she is. Her favorite time is coloring with her daughter on Saturday mornings rather than pursuing a dream or a man. Anna, however, ends her foray into young motherhood briefly and finds her talent as a successful photographer. Her life follows a more conventional path when she marries and has children in her twenties. These choices create questions, challenge beliefs, and force circumstances that each woman must face.
Cerise must deal with the aftermath of being a teenage mother. After a terrible accident involving her second child, she must try to figure out how she lost control over the children she had sacrificed everything to protect. Anna must try to assuage her guilt over her terminated pregnancy, and come to terms with how being a wife and mother has taken the place of many of her dreams. Her talents as a photographer seem to fade in direct correlation with her move to follow her husband's job opportunity.
It is only through the circumstances of motherhood that these two women make an impact on each other. Their two separate lives based on two separate decisions creates the catalyst that ultimately brings them together. Their circumstances are very different, yet are based on the same essential burden of giving life. It is their shared motherhood that provides the foundation of forgiveness, understanding, and fulfillment that each woman must come to terms with in her own life.
This report prepared by Jennifer Breault
Atria, Apr 2004, 25.00, 352 pp.
Renowned photographer Anna Walters loves her work, delights in being wife to college professor Eliot and raising their daughter Lucy. Her only blight is the abortion she once had. However, her idyllic lifestyle begins cracking when Eliot fails to attain tenure. Anna goes through a difficult birthing of their second child. As baby Ellen remains in intensive care, Anna becomes deeply depressed and has nightmares about the child that never was adds to her misery and self loathing.
When Cerise became pregnant in high school, she dropped out to raise her daughter Melody alone as the father Sam moved on to some other teen. To provide food and shelter, she works as a cleaning woman at a nursing home. Cerise liked her life with her little buddy, but lately an adolescent Melody has become disrespectful, nasty, and hangs with a bad crowd. Like her daughter who has found solace in promiscuous sex and drugs, Cerise has an affair that leads to a newborn Travis. As she struggles to earn money once welfare to work kicks in and takes her off the roles, Melody runs away and Travis dies in a fire. Not long afterward Cerise meets and commiserates with fellow lost soul Anna.
Though the action is nonexistent, WINDFALLS is a profound look at motherhood, but not through an apple pie lens.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner