The Unfinished Child

By Theresa Shea
Binding:Paperback
Publisher:Brindle & Glass, (4/2/2013)
Language:English



Average Rating:
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5.00 out of 5 (15 Clubie's ratings)


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In 1947, twenty-two year old Margaret Harrington gives birth to a baby with Down syndrome, when such infants were defined as "unfinished children." In 2002, Marie MacPherson, a mother of two, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at thirty-nine. Meanwhile, her best friend Elizabeth has never been able to conceive, despite years of fertility treatments. Marie's dilemma is further complicated when she enters the world of prenatal testing. As the novel shifts back and forth through the decades, the lives of the three women merge in an unexpected conclusion. The Unfinished Child tells a heart-wrenching and honest story about the complexities of motherhood, family, and friendship. 

 


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Fight Fire's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/13/2013

Excellent read!!!! I'm suggesting it to all my book club friends.

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Booker C's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/12/2013

Best book I've read in a long time. 

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DrLAX's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/11/2013



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Dar's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/11/2013

I found this book hard to put down, the characters were very interesting and believable.  The writing in this book is beautiful. THe book leads to a lot of very interesting discussions so is great for a book club.

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cheever's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/8/2013

A gripping and compassionate read.

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Sadester's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/7/2013

This from a reviewer: "I am fairly confident that I would have loved this book even if I didn't have a child of my own with Down syndrome, because it's not really about Down syndrome. It's about family and suffering and compassion and culture and love and why we make the choices we make."

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Dash's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/7/2013

You can't read this book and not be moved. It's our next book club book.

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EmilyShorty's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/6/2013

A compelling and important story about women's friendships, motherhood and our changing views on Down syndrome. Moving, well-researched and unbiased writing. The novel does what great novels do: Rather than giving an answer, it opens up the door to discussion. A must read.

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Unfinished's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/5/2013

Fabulous book club book. Our book club doesn't often talk about a book for long, but we talked about The Unfinished Child for the entire night. We could have met and talked about it again, as it brought up so many issues for discussion. I highly recommend it. 

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normanski's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/4/2013

Fantastic first novel by Theresa Shea.  Not a simple decision or cliche in sight in this novel, which looks at friendship and family without sentimentality.  The decisions of the characters are never forced, always right, and yet very often a surprise.  Don't miss this novel!

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anhaga's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/4/2013

. . . I’m tempted to suggest that in a nutshell The Unfinished Child is about Motherhood, but, that description is at once too wide and too narrow, and wide and narrow on a few different axes.  The novel specifically confronts motherhood of a child with Down Syndrome, but, in fact, very little time is spent depicting motherhood of such a child beyond pregnancy and birth. There are scenes of Marie and her two “normal” daughters, but the prospect of being a mother (or father) to a growing, developing child with Down’s Syndrome is left to the imagining of the characters and to our own imaginings. The Unfinished Child also touches on other relationships of family and friendship, but motherhood and parenthood in general are at the centre of the discussion — Discussion. It is this discussion that I think is the heart of The Unfinished Child‘s power. . . .

The rest of my review of The Unfinished Child may be found here: http://behindthehedge.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/the-unfinished-child-by-theresa-shea-if-ever-there-were-a-book-club-book/


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Bestseller's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/4/2013



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Sherry's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/3/2013

Extremely moving and thought provoking story about women, friendships and difficult decisions.  Could not put down and have talked about it since.

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luckyme's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/3/2013

Gripping.  Heart-wrenching.  Thought-provoking.  Riveting.  Haunting.  Unputdownable.

Those are just a few words that come to mind to describe this just-released novel by Canadian writer, Theresa Shea.

At the heart of the story are three women: Marie, Elizabeth, and Margaret.

In 1947, Margaret gives birth to her first baby, a girl, whom she names Carolyn.  She is allowed to hold her baby once, and even that is against her doctor’s advice.  Born with Down syndrome at a time when institutionalization of “mongoloids” and “mental defectives” was the norm, something within Margaret dies, nonetheless, at handing her baby over.  As was also the norm then, the whole incident is brushed under the rug, and Margaret is expected to forget her first child ever existed, and move on.  Move on, she does, having two “healthy” children in quick succession, but Margaret never fully recovers in her heart from Carolyn’s birth and absence.  When Carolyn is four years old, Margaret summons up the courage to visit her in the “training centre” in which she is housed, and there begins twelve years of monthly visits from mother to daughter, all undertaken in secret.

Marie and Elizabeth are best friends in modern-day Canada.  They’ve been best friends since they were girls, and their friendship has withstood not only the test of time, but of boyfriend stealing, and barely, the fact that Marie has two beautiful daughters and Elizabeth has never been able to have children despite a decade of grueling fertility treatments.  Now, on the brink of turning 40, Marie finds herself unexpectedly pregnant again, and the news not only throws her for a loop, but opens up old wounds between her and Elizabeth.  One night, Marie wakes from a dream, convinced that something is wrong with the baby she carries – the baby she never planned.  Both her premonition and the fact of her “advanced maternal age” lead her down the path of prenatal testing, and suddenly it seems as though it’s not only her and her baby’s fate that lie in the crosshairs, but her husband’s, her existing children’s, and even her best friend’s fates as well.

How the stories of these three women from different eras intertwines will surprise you.  Shea takes an unflinching look at the grim horrors of institutionalization, the nuanced dances that take place between spouses and friends,  and the price we pay for having choices.

I broke down in tears many times throughout this deftly imagined story, and although I wanted to be able to summon up some righteous outrage at times, what I mostly felt was enlightened and a deep compassion.  It drives home the fact that despite the debates raging about prenatal testing, abortion, and inclusion, nothing is black and white, and there are no easy answers.

This is a must read for not only parents in the Down syndrome community, but for all parents, and for anyone who appreciates masterful story-telling.  I will not soon forget this book.



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MT Shea's thoughts on "The Unfinished Child"
updated on:8/2/2013

"Best book club discussion ever."

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"The Unfinished Child"
By Theresa Shea

Average Rating:
DEFINITELY Unleash it
5.00 out of 5 (15 Clubie's ratings)


The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 
 
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"In my many years working as a doctor," he continued, "the greatest epiphany I ever had was the realization that compassion is not an innate trait. On the contrary, I now believe that compassion is a learned behaviour. So those contact moments, those moments when we see a child with Down syndrome, or in a wheelchair, are moments that elicit compassion. What happens to us, as a species, if we limit those moments of contact? There will be fewer opportunities to be compassionate. And if we think of compassion as a muscle that requires exercise to stay strong, then we could be in big trouble" (237).

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Theresa Shea's work has been published in a number of Canadian magazines and journals. Born in Maryland and raised throughout the United States, she moved to Canada in 1977 and lives in Edmonton with her husband and three children. Having come to motherhood relatively late, Shea continues to be fascinated by the technological and moral issues surrounding human reproduction. The Unfinished Child is her first novel. 



10. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

I have three children, and I didn’t have my first until I was thirty-five years old. Because of my “advanced maternal age,” I was given genetic counseling that outlined my options for prenatal testing. After a routine blood test with my first pregnancy, I was told that I had a higher chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. I remember the doctor’s office leaving a message on my answering machine that I was to call them. I knew right away something must be wrong, and the call came on a Friday. By the time I got home, the office was closed, so I spent the entire weekend convinced that something was wrong with my baby. And I was mad, because I felt like I’d been robbed of something. I’d been so happy to be pregnant, and then that test blanketed everything in darkness... Click here to read more of the interview.



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