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Looking for Jane (2022)

por Heather Marshall

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2932490,979 (4.03)9
2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane. 1971: As a teenager, Dr Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for 'fallen' women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption - a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had. 1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, 20-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates 'Jane' and finds a place alongside Dr Taylor within the network's ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.… (mais)
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We see women's rights debated daily in the news. (How has this even become a debate?) We see people working hard to remove rights from fully half of the population, in accordance with nothing so much as their paternalistic ideas of what is right for everyone. (It goes without saying that they are incorrect on every front on which they might argue.) Any decision about pregnancy, abortion, adoption, or fertility treatments should be made by the woman whose body is the one in question. I trust her to make the best decision for herself and her future life. Anyone who doesn't should examine why not a little (a lot) closer. As we step backwards, closer to a time when women were not allowed to choose for themselves, a time that feels awfully, terribly like the present right about now, there will be more and more stories, fiction and non, reminding us of what we risk when we lose personal choice. Heather Marshall's novel Looking for Jane is one of these. It's a triple stranded narrative set in Canada in 2017, 1971, and 1980, about secrets, choices, women's bodily autonomy, and the brave network of women determined to ensure the government treated women as fully adult human beings capable of making their own decisions about their health and lives.

Angela Creighton, who manages an antiques and used bookstore, finds an unopened letter which was misdelivered to the shop almost 10 years prior. After reading the life-changing message inside it, she decides to find the intended recipient, partly as a way to distract her from the fertility problems she and her wife are currently experiencing. As Angela searches for the letter's addressee, she learns about the Jane Network, an underground network of women, including abortion providers, who offered safe procedures for women before abortion was legalized in Canada in 1988.

In addition to the search for the intended recipient of the letter, two other stories weave through the narrative as well. The first follows Dr. Evelyn Taylor, who, as a teenager, was sent to a Catholic maternity home for unwed mothers and forced to give up her baby. Having never recovered from the trauma of this, she trained as an ob/gyn and joins the Jane Network in order to offer other women more choice than she was ever given. The second is that of Nancy Mitchell, a woman raised in a family crippled by silence and secrets. When she finds herself pregnant two decades after Dr. Taylor's experiences, her choices are still very limited but she finds the Jane Network and Dr. Taylor. She joins the Janes herself to help the women who find themselves in the same situation she herself was in, always keeping her involvement a secret, even from those she loves the most.

The stories of these three women come together in ways that are perhaps not very surprising (except in one case) but Marshall's story of life for women without unfettered access to health care is increasingly important as our sovereignty over ourselves and our reproductive care is slashed, hacked, eroded and legislated against by a faux moralistic minority. Although the Jane Network and abortion are a significant piece of the books, Marshall also includes adoption and fertility struggles as they are also important choices for women to have. Marshall captures the shame of a society that judges women (and only women) for pregnancies out of wedlock. She touches on the great harm, both immediate and lifelong, done to young women without their consent by organizations purporting to be in their best interests. She brings the whispers out into the open, into the light of day. The story is engaging and fast paced and while the end might be a little tidy, it is a good and pertinent read. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 6, 2024 |
Very solid storytelling with good structure, well-paced and fully fleshed characters. ( )
  fionaanne | Jan 10, 2024 |
This book follows three women who are bound together by a long-lost letter, a mother’s love, and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose—inspired by true stories.Clever and satisfying. ( )
  janismack | Dec 20, 2023 |
Looking for Jane is an emotional roller coaster about motherhood and the choices women face while pregnant. It crosses several timelines, showing the inhumane treatment that some young girls faced when pregnant while single. It looks at the danger of poor medical care, and the homes that housed unwed mothers.
Reading this book made me sad for the women who underwent such treatment and for those that are facing difficult choices today, as to whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
The story also follows women who made a choice, willingly or not, and the consequences. It is also a story of a mother and daughter searching for each other.
Moving story. ( )
  rmarcin | Nov 3, 2023 |
Although set in Canada, this story is especially relevant in the United States after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, which leads to untenable options for unwanted pregnancies. The timeline covers the early 1960s to 2017 for a variety of women. The homes for unwed mothers in the l960s meant family shame and often unwanted relinquishment of their babies for profit. We already have a broken foster care system, which is where too many children land when their parents cannot or will not be responsible for them. Now the burden is even heavier with unwanted children ending up in foster care.

This debut novel takes on difficult topics and the choices women make when abortions are illegal, often ending in death and infertility by unscrupulous abortionists. The courage evidenced by the doctors and volunteers who established the recourse for women to obtain legal, safe abortions in the "Jane" network is noteworthy then and now.

There is a memorable phrase in this book that would be a mantra in a perfect world - "Every child a wanted child, every mother a willing mother." ( )
  pdebolt | Oct 11, 2023 |
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It was a perfectly ordinary day when a truly extraordinary letter was delivered to the wrong mailbox.
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And she couldn't believe how stark the difference was between learning about this pregnancy versus her first. She hadn't been too concerned about her fertility, but discovered with no small measure of surprise, that there was a razor's edge in her life where she went from being terrified of getting pregnant to terrified of not getting pregnant. You could hardly fit a toothpick in the space between.
There is nothing like clearing out your dead mother's house to make you wonder whether you ever knew her at all.
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2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane. 1971: As a teenager, Dr Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for 'fallen' women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption - a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had. 1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, 20-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates 'Jane' and finds a place alongside Dr Taylor within the network's ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.

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