Synopses & Reviews
A prodigious talent blazes onto the American literary scene with this shattering memoir of her perilous--yet life-saving--addiction to childbearing
With the birth of her first child, Laura Jean Baker found herself electrified by oxytocin, the "love drug"--the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Again and again over the next eight years, Baker finds herself craving the intense highs of childbearing--cravings that, she realizes, align her much more closely with her public defender husband's drug-addled clients than with their middleclass peers. As Ryan's roster of defendants increases, so too does their family--nearly to the point of collapse.
Brilliantly crafted, impeccably written, intensely personal, The Motherhood Affidavits portrays a woman, a marriage, a family, caught in an impossible bind. Its heartbreaking resolution raises profound questions about whether we, as a society, are governed by morals or by laws--and whether either is an adequate measure of any one person's ability to parent and capacity for love.
"Laura Jean Baker has written a beautiful and brave memoir of motherhood and its discontents, which are indistinguishable from its joys. This is a warmly intimate yet intellectually provocative personal document of originality and considerable charm."
--Joyce Carol Oates
With the birth of her first child, soon-to-be professor Laura Jean Baker finds herself electrified by oxytocin, the "love hormone"--the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Over the next eight years, her "oxy" cravings, and her family, only grow--to the dismay of her husband, Ryan, a freelance public defender. As her reckless baby-making threatens her family's middle-class existence, Baker identifies more and more with Ryan's legal clients, often drug-addled fellow citizens of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Is she any less desperate for her next fix?
Baker is in an impossible bind: The same drive that sustains her endangers her family; the cure is also the disease. She explores this all-too-human paradox by threading her story through those of her local counterparts who've run afoul of the law--like Rob McNally, the lovable junkie who keeps resurfacing in Ryan's life. As Baker vividly reports on their alleged crimes--theft, kidnapping, opioid abuse, and even murder--she unerringly conjures tenderness for the accused, yet increasingly questions her own innocence.
Baker's ruthless self-interrogation makes this her personal affidavit--her sworn statement, made for public record if not a court of law. With a wrenching ending that compels us to ask whether Baker has fallen from maternal grace, this is an extraordinary addition to the literature of motherhood.