Given the Choice, by Susan Sellers (Cillian Press Limited, 2013)
The novel is a well-written and thought-provoking account of a modern upper-class couple’s struggle with the decision to become parents.
Marion, an ambitious and hard working woman in her early thirties, is unsure if she wants to become a mother, always putting off her husband’s desire to start a family with the assurance of older mothers being more commonplace.
The story is an honest look at a woman’s decision to have children; whilst all the economical and environmental hurdles have been cleared for Marion (she is fertile, happily married, self-employed and lives very comfortably as a result of her husband’s wage), she constantly struggles with the ‘want’ to become a mother. At times unlike-able and distant, Sellers admits that Marion is a ‘middling’ female character – not all good, but also not all bad, in the hope that the audience sees her as a tricky character, possibly highlighting that when given the choice, a woman’s decision to have a baby isn’t as clear cut as society would believe. The story focuses on the relationships in Marion’s life, and the differing identities she takes on as a result of this – playing the seemingly nurturing parent to her artistic clients, the perfect wife to her husband, and the rebellious, disappointing daughter to her parents.
Sellers plays with structure in this book, with each chapter being from a different character’s perspective, and the ending being offered to the reader as a ‘pick your own’ option of three alternatives. Themes of parenthood, identity, career and lifestyle balance override this novel, making it an interesting exploration of the modern female’s choice to become a mother.
Reviewed by Gemma Aston