Aimee Wall’s debut We, Jane has a strong sense of place, but the story it tells is becoming more and more universal.
We, Jane is a story about abortion–but more generally, it’s a story about relationships and community building. The novel focuses on Marthe, a young woman living in Montreal after leaving her Newfoundland hometown behind. She experiences rote 20s life events–a breakup and a crappy job–until she meets some older women from her hometown. They carry a heavy secret: since the 1960s, these women have worked to create a robust network of at-home abortion practioners. Marthe is inspired by their work and pulled into their world, but unsure of where her role specifically lies.
We, Jane refers to the underground network, where all practioners and patients were known only as “Jane”. The text explores the varied reasons women make this choice, and pushes back against the idea that some abortions are worth defending and some aren’t.
With the recent developments out of Texas, it’s a sobering reminder of how dangerous restrictions on reproductive freedom can be, as well as a reminder of how these issues manifest themselves outside the US as well.
The language is poetic and captivating–Wall has previously worked as a translator, and her attention to word choice is clear. I especially loved the explorations of Newfoundland and its distinct culture. Newfoundland, like Maine, Cornwall, and various other seaside communities, is becoming a posh vacation destination at the cost of locals. This leads to a lot of great meditations on identity and losing your “rural” past, which feels applicable no matter where in the world you’re based.
But the abortion material started to feel secondary to this, and the plot was a bit meandering at times. This is a book that happens to the main character instead of her doing much in it, which kept this work from being a higher rating from me. I just wanted a bit more substance here! But the content about abortion alone does make this worth checking out.
RATING: 3/5 stars
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