Two pregnancies, six men and women struggling with love, sex, fertility and the meaning of family. That might as well sum up Family Way. The story revolves around three sisters’ very different journeys towards motherhood. Jessica is desperate to get pregnant, but can’t.
Megan, a trainee doctor, isn’t “ready” to have a baby, but gets pregnant after a one-night stand. She contemplates having an abortion but changes her mind in the abortion clinic’s waiting room which is “as antiseptic and clinical as a dentist’s” But as the fetus develops so does Megan’s maternal instinct.
Cat, the older sister, has no desire to be a mother at all. But Parsons doesn’t really believe it’s possible to be a real woman and not want a baby. The only characters in the novel that he really despises are a mother who leaves her children and a career woman with no maternal instinct.
As soon as Cat thinks about babies, she changes her mind: “Without children all you had was now, and reminders of the past.” And then when she actually gets to hold one: “When Cat held the baby she felt a physical yearning more powerful than any craving she had ever known
Meanwhile, Paulo loves Jessica. He thinks that together they are complete – a family of two. But Jessica can’t be happy until she has a baby, and the baby stubbornly refuses to come. Megan doesn’t love her boyfriend anymore. After a brief affair with stand with an Australian beach bum, she finds that even a trainee doctor can slip up on the family planning.
But Cat loves her life. After bringing up her two youngest sisters, all she craves is freedom. Her older boyfriend has done the family thing before and is in no rush to do it all again. But can a modern woman really find true happiness without ever being in the family way?
James Franken thinks there are some good things about Parsons’s book. “It opens with a great forward rush, lacks pretension and is written in a plain style; its multiple plots are well organized and for long stretches it’s very readable.”
Everyone is either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or coping with their failure to get pregnant. Fate seems to follow all the women around.
The student doctor who dumps her long-term boyfriend is promptly knocked up by a visiting Australian, while the woman whose husband has a vasectomy is inseminated by her tennis instructor and the dream mum is cursed with endometriosis.
The book shows how persons morph into families against their wish sometimes and is really about women’s struggles with “sex, love and the meaning of family”.