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A Novel

Written by Judy SheehanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Judy Sheehan

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On Sale: December 10, 2008
Pages: 336 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48150-4
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

At thirty-seven, Jane Howe is pretty sure she has attained the perfect life: a well-paying job, fantastic friends, family close by (but not too close), and a Greenwich Village apartment that makes visitors drool with envy. But that’s before she sees the perfect child. There he sits in his stroller, angelic and beautiful, magnetic and serene– and he makes Jane question everything she has and everything she thought she wanted.

Suddenly all she can see are babies and pregnant woman everywhere. Were there always so many of them? And while there was once a man in her life–her one true love, Sam, gone from this world too soon–there is no man now. Jane must make a choice: possibly become a bitter and childless old lady, letting her biological clock tick on ’till menopause, or tend the ache in her heart now, by becoming a single mother.

As Jane struggles to make the most important decision of her life, friends and family offer no shortage of opinions. There’s Ray, her “hubstitute” and gay best friend who would be jealous of any kid who got Jane as a mom; Sheila, her sister, who went from zero to sixty when she eloped with Raoul–who had two young twin sons– and has mixed feelings about being a new mommy; her strict, Catholic father who can’ t imagine what level of hell Jane would banish herself to if she becomes a single mother; and the women of Families with Children from China who are preparing to adopt orphan daughters–without a man in sight. Just as she thinks she’s made up her mind, Jane discovers one small wrench in her plans: handsome, charming, funny Peter, who just happens to be (unhappily) married.

. . . And Baby Makes Two is a heartbreakingly honest, wonderfully addictive, and funny novel about love and loss, family and friendship. Judy Sheehan, co-creator of the smash hit Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, has perfectly captured the delights and dilemmas of the scariest job in the world: motherhood.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Jane walked out of her apartment building and saw the Christ Child. She was on her way to the gym when she saw a baby of such breath-stopping beauty she had to remind herself to inhale. He had gray-blue eyes, Nestlé cocoa hair, and was destined to have thick eyebrows after puberty. He had no pores. He had bliss. His mother held him on her hip in a swaddling sling that matched his eye color almost perfectly. She looked pretty happy, for a virgin mother, not that Jane noticed her. This glowing god-baby was the reason wise men traveled across deserts and little drummer boys drummed. He blinked, and Jane, a reasonably calm person as a rule, nearly wept. She had to talk herself down. She pretended to check her watch, and then she walked away. She only looked back at him four times. But he had already turned to perform other miracles.

Jane moved on. She really did. She was a grown-up, after all, so she went to the gym and climbed the Stairs to Nowhere. She showered. She tried to do something with that hair of hers, and why did it seem to have a mind of its own? And those roots. They were an evil announcement of her lack-of-youth. Jane was morally superior to her lack-of-youth, but she still hid her roots, as best she could.

Jane’s life was pretty good for an almost-thirty-seven-year-old. She lived in New York City. She was of medium height and had pale skin, because she was afraid of skin cancer, and reddish-brown hair, of the Nice ’n Easy #110 variety. Her hair had given up being red all by itself years ago. At her age, it needed help. She still wore size six pants. She looked tense all the time, but she didn’t know it. She walked fast, but always gave directions to tourists trying to find Broadway below Fourteenth Street.

Jane was lucky. She had a cool apartment with more sunlight than most people might expect in the East Village. The small extra bedroom used to serve as a darkroom, when she had been dabbling in photography. These days it was a makeshift office/storage closet/ place to stash things when parents came to visit. She still took photos, but only on vacations or at family events where someone had to say, “I wonder when we’ll all be together like this again?” And she had the Indian guy on Bleecker Street develop the pictures. He was nice, and always found one shot in the roll to praise as “Oh, very pretty, very good! You should take more pictures!”

Her family was in New Jersey, the exact right distance away. Different area code, so she could feel separate, but the same time zone, so they could all feel close. Perfect. Her friends envied her out loud.

So why was there an ache in her life? Why did it feel like there was a hole in her middle? Most of the time, she walked too quickly to feel it, but sometimes it howled, and when it did, she walked faster.

After all, Jane’s life was pretty good for an almost-thirty-seven-year-old. The other side of the last cute decade of her life. She was starting to be not young anymore. Thirty-seven sounded old. Older. Agatha old. Too old to change her ways, find a husband, and make babies. Too late for that.

So Jane moved on. She really did. She had only twenty-three minutes to get to work, but she bypassed the subway and opted to walk. After all, it was a postcard of a morning in early May. Stray New Yorkers even smiled with late spring giddiness. She hit her stride and got a lucky stretch of green lights to keep the momentum. Nineteen minutes later, she would have just enough time to overpay for a double latte, smile as her elevator stopped at every floor, and then dive into the madness.

Jane always forgot to factor in the line at Starbucks for people who wanted to get brownie-coffee. And there he was. That same guy was there again. She had seen him last week, thinning blond hair, capped teeth. She noticed him noticing her. Why did she think he was an actor? And, even though Jane was going to turn thirty-seven in less than a week, he flirted with her anyway.

“Are you stalking me?” He grinned.

“Hey, a girl’s gotta have a purpose in life. Or a hobby. Or . . .”

She grimaced. Her answer was too long. The Christ Child sighting was still visible in her head, and still so distracting. And could she still legally call herself a girl? She didn’t schedule any time for a flirtation. The city was full of handsome, capped-teeth smiles, and here was another one, but she shouldn’t be late for the Monday morning meeting.

The actor looked pleased and settled in to flirt with her. Did he know that he was blocking the door? He was smooth.

“This is, like, the third time I’ve seen you here. Do you live around here?”

“I work here. Not here, upstairs. In the building. I work in the building.”

Oh, my God, she sounded like an idiot! His grin turned condescending, like he was George Clooney and he always had this effect on women, like he was taking pity on a stammering female fan. For Jane, it was time to move on. Really.

“My name’s Richard. What’s yours?”

“Jane. And I—”

“Really? Are you giving me a fake name or something?”

Did lots of women give him fake names?

“No. I’m Jane. Really.”

He took her hand, nearly scalding it with his own latte.

“Look at us! We’re Dick and Jane! We’re, like, I don’t know, something out of a baby book or something.”

Jane smiled. This was no George Clooney, just a guy blocking the door when she had less than two minutes to get to her meeting.

“Me Dick! You Jane!” And he pummeled his chest Tarzan style. Jane smiled.

“See you in school!” she said and ducked around him.

“Wait!”

But she didn’t wait. Instead, she took long ballet leap-steps to the elevator, into the conference room, and the workday took hold.

Jane had seven employees and nine consultants on her team. She liked to take care of them. She bought them zinc when they had colds, she held birthday celebrations and baby showers, and she listened to love life sagas. Nice work and she got it. She ran IT Support for the high-profile investment bank Argenti. Wall Street. The Street. The nerve center of the city, the country, the world. Decisions here reverberated throughout the universe, and Jane had to handle their latest Microsoft upgrade. And handle the eternal complaints about her Help Desk. And find a way to supply cheaper laptops to senior management. And phase out the old contact database. And integrate technology with the London firm Argenti had just acquired. And answer the e-mails she’d been ignoring. And make birthday plans. And get the latte stain out of her skirt. It was almost noon when Jane noticed that the actor had missed scalding her hand, but he had stained her skirt. Look at that . . .

...

Jane wrote lists all the time. In the middle of a conference call, she’d add a stray item to the list. She lived by her lists and her schedules. She upgraded PDAs twice a year and had entirely too many opinions about them. Lists brought her order and comfort. Maybe lists could fill that hole in her middle. When it howled, she fed it lists. See? See how much you have? Why are you greedy for more? Be happy. Stop aching and howling.

“Do you want anything from A.J.’s?” Her staff was always diligent about including her in their lunch plans, and she was equally diligent about declining. No one was going to intercept her almost-break at lunch. Outside, in the absence of fluorescent light, there were no PCs, or at least, not as many. When she felt brave, she ate from the local food carts, and when she felt braver, she ate at the expensive delis.

“Mommy! Mommy, please? I want fries! Please? I can have fries, please?”

It was a technicolor Shirley Temple, ringlets and all. Jane watched and listened. How did little girls get that bell-quality to their voices? And why does it disappear? Jane wanted to be some beautiful fries godmother and make the girl happy, but she suspected that the mother might have a minor objection or two. Jane moved on to the deli line.

You may not believe it, but the Dick-Richard-Actor was there. Same deli.

“Are you temping too?” he asked. “I’m at Sloan. I told them I smoke, so I get, like, five breaks a day. Hey. You got something on your skirt.”

“Yes. Your coffee.”

Richard overflowed with apologies, with seltzer, with salt. He betrayed no trace of enjoying himself as he pulled her out of line and attempted to rub the stain out of her skirt. He was all business, but Jane was still not taking him seriously.

She wished she had stayed in line. Just then, a pregnant woman entered the deli. Very pregnant, carrying her pregnancy so casually with an arched-out baby belly. This would have been unremarkable, but she was followed by a similarly pregnant woman. And then another. And another. In the end, there was a string of six pregnant women, waddling up to the counter for chicken salads, bagels with vegetable cream cheese, and soup. Jane had lost her place in line. Dick-Richard was still babbling. He had a flier for a play—was he in it? Hah! He was an actor after all. She had been right. She was puffed with pride, and now it was time to move on. Again. Really.

“Would you look at that?” Dick asked as he pointed to the school of pregnant women. “What’s in the water around here? I hope you’re not drinking it!”

He was no George Clooney, remember? There was no call for stammering here. She just needed to tell him she was busy and she had to go now.

“Look. I’m really busy and I have to go now. It’s Monday—it’s a crusher day. You seem really nice, but I’m too busy to talk to you. I’m due. At work. I’m past due. I mean, I have to go now. Thanks for this.”

She left the flier on the table and left the actor and the pregnant women in the deli, late for another meeting. Kendra, her manager, didn’t speak English. She spoke only Corporate Speak, and though it took twice as long to say anything, she seemed to love it.

Kendra gave a five-minute speech about “levels of granularity as we ramp up the London integration” and suggested that Jane could “add value to this critical process.” Jane translated it in her head and smiled: “We have programs, they have programs. Make them work together.”

“I’m on it,” Jane said, and it was true.

Kendra seemed confused by the brief reply. Didn’t Jane know that she was at work? Why wasn’t she using Corporate Speak?

Kendra talked about “server maintenance” and “time-sensitive issues.” Jane sifted through the words and realized that Kendra was saying: server maintenance. Why the delays? It was a big issue, and they were going to have to schedule a power outage over the weekend. Saturday night? Jane, can you supervise? Of course she can. Jane’s a team player. Go, Jane, go.

As the group shuffled out of the conference room, Kendra pulled Jane aside.

“You know, London offers lots of growth opportunities. If you’re interested, I can escalate.”

“Of course,” Jane said before she finished translating. All it meant was “Wanna work in London?”

...

Jane phoned The New York Times where her best friend, Ray, would be stumbling into work right about now.

Ray was a theater critic, but people loved him anyway. He recently became a second-stringer for the Times, but still published in lots of tourist publications. Tourists loved his ability to identify which audience was right for which show, and publishers loved his ability to beat a deadline. His career expanded to include hosting seminars at the New School, where he interviewed the very people he had skewered in print. Lots of people attended just to see if there would be an ugly scene. Once in a while, they got their wish. Philip Seymour Hoffman spat at him, but Madonna hugged him. Go figure.

Jane loved Ray’s broad appetite for the arts. Seated next to him, Jane saw gems and rip-offs. She shared his dislike of all those microphones, and she wondered aloud why there were always naked people on stage at The Public Theater. Ray explained that everyone calls it The Pubic.

“Hey, Ray. I have to work Saturday night. How did I let that happen?”

Silence. Why wasn’t he clucking in sympathy, or trying to outdo her?

“Are you listening? Are you multitasking? No e-mail when you’re on the phone with me. That was the deal, remember?”

“Janie. I’m not multitasking. I’m barely tasking. Auntie Mame’s hung.”

No one likes to say “Again?” when they hear that a friend is hung- over, and no one likes to hear it. But Ray’s latest boyfriend lived in a Ketel One world, and Ray wasn’t up to the challenge.

“He’s young. He likes to party. I try to keep up.”

“He has more brain matter to spare.”

“He had a gig at Arlene’s Grocery, and it didn’t go well. The audience wanted something more . . .” Ray couldn’t finish that sentence. He didn’t understand his boyfriend’s music, so he really didn’t understand his boyfriend’s music’s audience. So he said, “. . . else. They wanted something else. And then, there were all those sorrows to drown. Tell me about your wonderful, normal life, Principessa.”

“They want me to go to London.”

She could hear Ray sit up straighter.

“When? For how long?”

“Soon, I think. For forever, maybe. I don’t have any details.”

“Who needs details? Go. The London theater scene is so much more interesting than New York’s. Go, and take me with you.”

Ray described the last seven plays he had seen in London, while Jane multitasked and read e-mail. Ray could tell, and he interrupted her.

“Let’s continue this conversation next week at that Alice in Wonderland we’re going to see. Saturday night. No e-mail. You’ll have to pay attention.”

“Ray. I told you. I’m working Saturday night.”

“Next Saturday. Pay attention, you dope.” ...


From the Hardcover edition.
Judy Sheehan|Author Q&A

About Judy Sheehan

Judy Sheehan - . . . and Baby Makes Two

Photo © Paul D'Innocenzo

Judy Sheehan started her career as one of the original cast members and creators of the long-running stage hit Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. Currently Sheehan is the playwright-in-residence at New York City’s prestigious Looking Glass Theatre, which produces her work every season. Excerpts from her plays have appeared in the popular anthologies Monologues for Women by Women and Even More Monologues for Women by Women. In 2000, Sheehan joined the growing ranks of adoptive parents when she traveled to China to adopt a ten-month-old girl. Judy and her daughter, Annie, live in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Judy Sheehan

. . . And Baby Makes Two ends with Beth’s epilogue. Although Beth had the final word, she still had a few burning questions for the author. What follows is Beth’s conversation with Judy Sheehan.


Beth: You used to be an actress, then you turned into a playwright, and then you turned into a novelist? Are you done changing? And how did all of the theater work affect your novel writing?

Judy Sheehan: When I was in fourth grade and the teacher went around the room asking us all what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said that I wanted to be a writer. But then I got distracted by theater, and it was a really happy distraction, one that I needed. I got to experience great stories and meet memorable characters, and it helped me to think more creatively. But then I woke up one day and said, “Okay, now that’s out of my system,” and I swore that I’d never go on another audition–and I haven’t. Writing a novel was definitely a challenge for me. I had to get used to the idea of painting the whole picture myself. I couldn’t rely on actors, designers, and a good director to complete each scene for me. But in the end, a good story is a good story, so it doesn’t matter what format you’re using to tell it. And I have to say that the theater gave me a tremendous sense of discipline. I got used to meeting really tough deadlines, as well as taking input and criticism from everyone from the cast to the props managers. Everyone has an opinion, so it’s good to have a thick skin. Am I done changing? I doubt it. I’m not sure that we’re ever done changing. But I promise that I’m done with acting. That chapter is over for me.

B: Were you really part of the original company of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding off-Broadway? What was it like? Was it the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

JS: Tony n’ Tina was a fun experience; it was very weird, and it was also hard work. Beth, imagine doing the same show, same story, same everything for two years. That’s what I did, and by the end, it was hard to keep it fresh and exciting. Still, it was interesting to see a silly pet project launched by a couple of my college friends explode into a big hit. And now I have to admit that I never believed that the show would become any kind of hit. We used to hold weekend workshops, inviting our friends as the audience/wedding guests. When the people in charge of the show announced that they would open the show for a six-week run, I sighed and thought that this was a big mistake: we would run out of friends! All these years later, that six-week run is still going strong. So that shows you how little I knew. As cool as it sounds, Tony n’ Tina was not the coolest thing I ever did. After all, I was just a minor player in a theatrical event that was bigger than all of us. As it became more and more successful, it changed a lot of the relationships that built it. Sometimes there was more drama behind the scenes than the audience ever got to see.
I’ll always be thankful that the show allowed me to act full-time and figure out that acting was not for me. It also allowed me to experience one of the coolest things I ever did: I visited with Eugene Ionesco in his home in Paris. The Tony n’ Tina company owned the rights to some children’s stories that he had written, and I was there to discuss theatrical adaptations of the stories. That ranks pretty high on my list of cool things that I’ve done.

B: I have to write for school, and it’s hard to get started. How do you get started? If you don’t have a teacher, how do you know if your writing is any good?

JS: You’re absolutely right–it’s really hard to get started. It’s even harder to stay with it, and almost impossible to complete your work. While I was writing this book, I was also living life as a single mother with a very busy full-time job. I would write at my little laptop computer at night, after my daughter went to bed. This sounds kind of sad, but you have to understand that I’m a single mom and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had gone off the air, so there was nothing left for me to do, at least not then. So, I got to work. You have to really want to start and want to finish. I wrote so many drafts of this book, I actually lost count. At one point, I was working on a big overhaul to the plot, but my job became really busy and the holidays were upon us. For a few weeks there, I didn’t write a word, and it scared me a lot. I figured that I’d lose momentum and never finish the book. Anne Lamott, the supremely gifted writer, once said, “No one will care as much as you do if you don’t get your writing done.” That sentence absolutely haunted me. I knew that the world wasn’t holding its breath for a debut novel by Judy Sheehan. But I knew that this mattered to me. And Buffy wasn’t coming back to distract me further. So I got back to work. It’s impossible for you to know if the writing is good, medium, or really stinky. All you can do is your best. So you need to show it to people that you can trust. I was lucky in that I had my literary agents, Dan Lazar and Simon Lipskar of Writers House, to tell me the truth about my work. And here is a key factor: I listened to them. I knew that I had nothing to lose if I at least tried on their advice. After all these were very smart guys who knew what they were doing. They became my teachers.

B: I thought that you made my grandfather, Howard, way overreact to the adoption in the novel. Why did you do that?

JS: Hey, I’m sorry if that hurt your feelings, but I had to do it. Someone had to voice all of the objections that a potential single mother faces. And Howard was the perfect candidate to own all of that. After all, he loved his daughter and sincerely felt that he needed to protect her from a dreadful mistake. He knew that he had to be completely honest and direct with her. The fact that Jane kept going forward with the adoption, even after that rather blistering speech from her father, means that she really owned this decision fully. Her father’s words presented a huge obstacle for her and she fought her way past them. Good for her. Also, my job was to put Jane in trouble and give her lots of conflicts to work out. She was my central character, and if I protected her from scenes like that, I’d be writing a very dull book. Whenever I put Jane in a really difficult situation, I knew that I was making the story better. And let’s all applaud Howard for coming around at the end of the story and giving his blessing. See? Even Howard got to grow up a little.

B: Did you know how everything would work out, or did we surprise you when you were writing us?

JS: I thought I knew what would happen. I was writing from an outline, and yes, from a lot of my own experiences. The outline served to keep me from getting stuck. If I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, I would turn to the outline for a little guidance. But I didn’t stick to that outline very strictly, so it didn’t take long for you, Jane, Peter, and everyone else to become your own selves and give me plenty of surprises. For example, I didn’t realize how Irish-Catholic Jane’s family life was going to be. Looking back now, it fills in a lot of blanks for Jane’s perspective on the world, but it didn’t appear in the outline at all. Also, I had no idea that you, Beth, were going to get the last word in this story. I didn’t foresee the big fight about the suburbs vs. the city for Jane and Peter. And I was absolutely flabbergasted when Bianca revealed Jane’s adoption plans to Howard. I didn’t know that was going to happen until I was typing the words. Days like those were a lot of fun for me.

B: You adopted a baby girl from China yourself, didn’t you? How much of what happens to me and to my mom came from your own experience?

JS: That’s the question that everyone asks me, so let’s put it all on the table. Yes, I did adopt my daughter from China, and yes, it did inspire the story for this book. So yes, the heart of the book is mine, all mine. But of course I played with the particulars of my story to develop it into a full-fledged novel. Jane has different experiences than I did. Sometimes, I would steal aspects of friends’ lives, and sometimes I made things up out of thin air. Even though Jane got to do a number of things that I did, Jane is not me. And the people around her are really and truly fictional characters. Remember, these characters took on a life of their own as I was writing them and gave me a lot of surprises. Of course, no one is ever going to believe me, but this book is not my memoir. My memoir would have to include lots of mundane afternoons of laundry, diaper changing and making mac and cheese.

B: What do you think the pluses of adoption are?

JS: There are more pluses to adoption than I could ever name, but I’ll offer a few highlights. Adopting my daughter was the best–and by the way, the coolest thing–I ever did. While I was working on the adoption paperwork, I was conscious of my choice to become a parent and how easily I could pull the plug on the whole operation right up until the last minute. I really owned this decision. As a result, my daughter is a child who was really, really wanted–by me. Sometimes, I look at her and realize how far away she was born, and I’m overwhelmed with appreciation that she’s my kid. Since we don’t have any genetics in common, adoption has really freed me up to let her be herself. If she’s good at music (which she is) or at drawing (which she is), it’s her own gift, not something that she got from “my side of the family.” I don’t find myself looking for more Sheehan in her. I’m really free to let her be herself.

B: Are you adopted and did you grow up with siblings? Do you think being an only child is a plus or a minus?

JS: Oh, Beth. I am the tenth of twelve children. Tenth of twelve. That’s a lot of siblings. And we’re all biological kids: none of us was adopted. While it’s great to have so many personalities in one family, I personally think that twelve is too many. No matter how devoted a parent may be, it goes against the laws of physics to say that there could be enough time for all twelve children. And, by the way, our house contained twelve kids, two parents, and just one bathroom. Now that’s crazy! Sometimes I feel guilty that my daughter is an only child. Maybe she should have at least one sibling. But one of the things that I say to her is, “No one gets everything. You get what you get, so don’t get upset.” The minuses of being an only child may get counterbalanced by the attention and time she gets from me. And she’ll never have to wait quite so long to get in the bathroom.

B: How did you feel when you first met your daughter? Was it like how my mom, Jane, says she felt about me?

JS: Jane and I definitely shared this experience, because seeing my daughter for the first time was the purest happiness I’ve ever known. When I wrote scenes like that one, I felt like a Method actor/ writer because I’d be sitting at my keyboard crying as I relived some of the most emotional aspects of my journey to China. When I wrote about Jane seeing her daughter’s face for the first time, I floated through the rest of the day as if I had just seen my own child for the first time too. In the book, I make a reference to West Side Story, and the way that Tony and Maria can’t see anyone else in the room because they’re so in love with each other. That’s exactly how I felt. Sometimes I worry that my daughter will grow up to resent how I pillaged this intimate experience for a book. I hope that she won’t feel that way. I hope that she’ll see that this was a story that needed telling, and I hope that we’ll both know that it helped others to really grasp the extreme joy associated with adoption.

B: Why do you think my mom decided to adopt me instead of having in vitro or one of those new things doctors do?

JS: I have a lot of respect for the women who undergo the many infertility treatments out there. They’re physically fighting for the child that is meant to be theirs. But, since I got to create Jane, I got to decide what child was meant to be hers. And that was you, Beth. You were meant to be Jane’s daughter. Beyond that, I think that Jane might feel that she is sidestepping a certain amount of criticism by exercising the Dan Quayle Was Right idea. Jane decides that two parents are better than one, and that one parent is better than zero. By adopting a child with zero parents, she can satisfy her very deep need to be a mother and make that child’s life at least somewhat better. I just can’t picture Jane going through in vitro or any other path to motherhood. Once she sees the photo of the little girl in the red bathing suit, she is drawn to China and to you, Beth.


B: My mom makes me go to Mandarin lessons now that I’m older. Do you make your daughter go? How much do you make your daughter study Chinese traditions, and does she like it?

JS: Ha ha ha. As long as your mom is in charge of you, you’ll be taking Mandarin lessons and learning all about your Chinese heritage, like it or not. I’m happy to say that my daughter goes to a school that is about 96 percent Chinese and that she has studied some Mandarin and some Chinese dance. The interesting thing here is that some of her peers refused to believe that she was born in China because she isn’t as fluent in any Chinese language as they are. She is Chinese-American, with an emphasis on the American. Sometimes she uses Irish expressions that I got from my parents or grandparents, and it makes me realize what a unique little person she is becoming. It’s important for her to know the reality of her background– where she came from and how she came to be here with me. But it’s a constant reminder that I am not really at the wheel of control here. She takes in all of these influences and ideas, shakes them around, and turns them into her one-of-a-kind personality. She is quite a girl. You’d like her.

B: What’s next? Are you going to write about us some more?

JS: What, you have more to say?

My next book is entitled Women in Hats, and it’s set in the world of the theater. It’s a mother-daughter story, where both are grown-ups. Mom is a famous actress, a former TV sitcom mom. She has a difficult relationship with her daughter, who is a theater director off-off-Broadway. The daughter gets her big break to direct a Broadway play, but it will star her mother. Ouch. As for writing more about you, Beth, my best answer is maybe. I have an idea for a sequel to this story, which would focus on you, Ariel, and Grace at age thirteen. Jane and Peter are finally going to
get married, and you three girls are sort of thrown together into a forced friendship while you attend a Chinatown summer school. It’s about first love, lasting love, friendship, and figuring out who you are. Wow, that sounds like a big book. I’d better get to work on it right now.

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. The book begins with the image of a Christ Child who awakens a baby hunger in Jane. How does this image change as it recurs in the book? Have you ever experienced a similar encounter? Have other people’s children made you want to have children or scared you away from having children of your own?

2. Jane often thinks in terms of lists. What is the significance of the lists, and how do they change through the book? Do you depend on lists in your life?

3. Ray undergoes a series of changes throughout the book. Why? How does he complement Jane?

4. How do you think Betty would have responded to Jane’s decision to adopt a child from China? Do you think she would have reconciled with Sheila in time?

5. What kind of mother will Jane be? What will Karen and Teresa be like? Do you think that the three mother characters can maintain a friendship?

6. How do you feel about the fact that Jane and Peter are together at the end of the story?

7. Have you considered adoption? Why did you decide to or not to adopt?

8. Beth asks Judy in the interview portion of this reading group guide why she had Howard overreact to the adoption. Did you agree that Howard overreacted? How do you think you would react if one of your children or friends revealed that they were adopting a baby from another country either as a single parent or otherwise?

9. Did you relate to Jane’s sudden desire to have a child? Did you experience a similar sensation yourself?

10. Do you have friends or family members that do not have children by choice? What factors have gone into their decisions to not have children? How do their decisions and experiences differ from Jane’s and what do you think made them choose the opposite path from Jane?

11. If you are not a single parent, would you have made the same choice as Jane–to adopt a child on her own? Or is having children something you would only do with a partner?

12. If you are a single parent, do you think you responded to the themes in this book in a more or less different way than the other members of your group who are not single parents?


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