Bibliophile | ‘Olive’ faces the mother of all choices in Emma Gannon novel

Olive
by Emma Gannon
HarperCollins

Olive is the same age as her mother was when she gave birth to her and she faces the “mother of all choices”. The number one conversation of everyone around her, including her boyfriend of 9 years, is – when is she going to consider having a baby?

Olive finds babies cute but she is pleased to give them back without any fertility flutters or broodiness. Her three female friends, with whom she shared a house when they were at university in London, are at various stages of the baby continuum (already had children, pregnant or undergoing IVF treatment) and Olive wonders if she will continue to be child-free by choice.

Author Emma Gannon is not Olive. She acknowledges that all the women she spoke to when researching this book helped put Olive together “from the inside out”. As a writer for a feminist-focused online magazine, Olive is exploring being child-free by choice despite all the smug people around her who keep telling her she will change her mind.

Olive is also finding that her best ‘friends for life’ are drifting away as they become preoccupied with husbands and children, pregnancy or fertility medical treatments. Her friends have always been part of her identity, and now it is if they are zooming ahead with their lives while she just wants everything to slow down.

Societal expectations for marrying, breeding and settling down are huge but not everyone is prepared to fit in this mold. As Gloria Steinem says “Everyone with a womb doesn’t have to have a child any more than everybody with vocal cords has to be an opera singer”.

Emma Gannon thoroughly explores this pro-choice issue through likable fictional characters and I love the quotes from people who responded to her callout for personal experiences. One of my favorites is – “I have a difficult enough time getting motivated to take good care of myself. I cannot imagine having to always put a child first.”

Lezly Herbert


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