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The Baby Trail


The Baby Trail

Infertility is no laughing matter. Men and women unable to have children are often put through the emotional and physical wringer in trying to build a family. So to say that Sinead Moriarty's first novel THE BABY TRAIL --- about one woman's difficulty getting pregnant --- is humorous, while true, does not do justice to the depth of the story and the sensitivity Moriarty feels for the serious subject matter.

THE BABY TRAIL is funny, often laugh-out-loud funny. But that is because its main character, Emma Hamilton, is funny, not because Moriarty tries to suggest that infertility is.

At thirty-three, happily married and content in her career, Emma has decided it is high time to start a family. Her husband, James, agrees. She thinks it will be simple; stop using birth control, have sex, and after a couple of months she will find herself pregnant. But after a few months go by, Emma starts to get worried. She changes her diet, exercises more, and tracks her ovulation. Still no pregnancy. After a year, Emma and James visit fertility specialists, and from that point on Emma spends a year undergoing painful and depressing procedures, taking hormones and becoming positively obsessed with conception.

Her family and friends begin to worry about her, and her relationship with James becomes strained; Emma knows she is losing emotional control but feels she needs to keep trying to have a baby. Finally, after a couple of years and one too many invasive doctor visits, she needs to decide what her priorities are and how much she is willing to endure to have a child.

What is funny about this story? Despite the serious and heartbreaking topic, Moriarty's prose is often hilarious and always witty. Dubliner Emma is smarty and sassy with a sharp tongue, and her brogue and Irish slang are charming (yet readable). Often it is Emma's --- that is Moriarty's --- honesty about sex, relationships and ego that make the book funny, but mostly it is Emma's wry and bold narration that will get a laugh from readers.

Still, this is a serious book. Moriarty does not trivialize the issue of infertility and never gives Emma an easy way out; she and James must make tough decisions. We follow Emma through two years of humiliation, sadness, anger and frustration as well as hopefulness. THE BABY TRAIL is realistic and poignant in this way.

Along with Emma and James, readers meet a host of characters that are all important in Emma's life. Her two close friends represent two alternate lifestyles --- the single, workaholic and the stressed stay-at-home mom. Her parents and siblings, while unable to empathize, are supportive of Emma and every bit as quirky as she is. James's friend Donal, a professional rugby player, is raising his orphaned niece on his own. And James's brother and sister-in-law are having twins, and rubbing salt in Emma's emotional wounds.

It would be a shame to pass over this novel because it seems at first glance like so much light "Chick Lit" reading. For fans of the genre there is the spunky heroine (and Irish to boot), the handsome love interest, the fiery friends, and lots to smile at. However, this novel transcends many similar stories by dealing with a difficult issue with grace and intelligence. So readers looking for something a bit meatier will not be disappointed. While the abrupt ending may leave readers a bit put off, Moriarty seems to be trying to leave the end of Emma's struggles to the imagination. Still, the end, while a respectable effort, is the main weakness of the novel.

Moriarty's debut is promising. It is well-written with a good blend of humor and drama.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 22, 2010

The Baby Trail
by Sinead Moriarty

  • Publication Date: March 22, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 0743496760
  • ISBN-13: 9780743496766