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THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa Shea

“Her mother’s words came back to her.  It’s a woman’s lot in life to bear the shame. But why should it be?  Why didn’t men carry the burden of their own bad behaviors?”


THE UNFINISHED CHILD is a very sensitive read about the moral and technical dimensions of sharing life with a child with Down’s Syndrome.  This is a fictional story so it can tell a bigger story and fill us in on the thought processes, the feelings, the hopes and dreams and the historic experiences.  This book is also a story about mothers and how they parent, what they tell their daughters about being a mother, and what they withhold; the secrets behind the scenes to the conversational outcomes.  This is a well-researched story about hope with sensitivity to the rose petal delicacy of each individual’s patterns of emotion.

Elizabeth and Marie are best friends.  Marie is a fulltime mom to two delightful daughters and discovers she is pregnant at age thirty nine; this pregnancy feels very different from the previous two.  Elizabeth owns a florist shop and has been attempting to have a baby for 17 years with no positive results; she was adopted as an infant but will not consider adoption as an option for herself.  Marriages are put to the test and friendship becomes difficult as these women sort out what they will be and do next in their lives.

There is a third mother highlighted in THE UNFINISHED CHILD – Margaret.  Margaret was raped as a young girl on her family farm by the doctor’s son and learns about classism and shame.  After she is married her first born daughter is born with Down’s syndrome and is institutionalized under doctor’s recommendations within a few days of birth.  Shame, classism, and medical – technical issues enter into the story line, in the 1940s, this is just the way life happened.  There were few studies, people did not know what to do, and they expected the infant to be sickly, mentally retarded, and survival rates low.  Margaret and her daughter inspire a newly minted doctor to learn more and provide hope.   Children with Down’s were referred to as UNFINISHED CHILDREN.

Raw complex feelings are explored in these three women, the reader uncovers the complexities of feelings and actions surrounded by the pressures and expectations put upon the role of being a mother and developing a family spirit.  It is honest and searching and THE UNFINISHED CHILD will definitely touch your heart.

What a dynamic book group discussion starter, there are so many avenues to explore, including self-exploration of feelings.  How do these ideas and concepts fit into community and society?  What is it that we tell our children – our daughters?

“Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted…but to weigh and consider.”  Francis Bacon.

Theresa Shea on Facebook.  Shea was born in Maryland and now resides in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her husband and three children “Having come to motherhood relatively late, Shea has always been particularly sensitive to the technological and moral issues surrounding women’s choices regarding childbirth.”

Related:
Incendiary Girls
Our Love Could Light The World
Coincidence 
The Moon Sisters

tlc logo TLC Online Book Tours shared a copy of this book for me to review.  The depth and width of this story encouraged me to let you know about – THE UNFINISHED CHILD.

Would you purchase a book that was a story about Down’s syndrome and infertility?  Do you find it helpful to read about life dilemmas and the resolutions?

Sharing is good.

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17 Responses to “THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa Shea”

  1. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    “…the ROSE PETAL DELICACY of each individual’s patterns of emotion.”

    Patricia, a profoundly wonderful word picture to launch this book review. I appreciate your sensitivity.

    I also appreciated Francis Bacon’s comment, ““Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted…but to weigh and consider.”

    As always, thank you.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..Life Isn’t a Dress RehearsalMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    Daisy Hickman used the Bacon quote in the deep of winter on one of her posts and I just thought it fit perfectly with this book

    a beauty story to weigh and consider – might even open some hearts
    Patricia recently posted..THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa SheaMy Profile

  2. Deborah Barker Says:

    Once again you make me want to pick up the book and read it. Thank you Patricia for showing it to me. It is on my ever growing list. 😉

    Patricia Reply:

    Deborah
    I always wonder how you are proceeding on the 50 books you won – I know you read several on vacation.

    I originally thought the author was Canadian, but she is mostly from the US – I think her time in Canada helped to soften the edges on her writing, and it made the story much better. And, and there was not all the time in the story about how having a Down’s baby financially bankrupted the families – where in the USA it is a huge blow to the financial picture for families to consider.

    A sensitive story well told
    Patricia recently posted..THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa SheaMy Profile

    Theresa Shea Reply:

    Hi Patricia, I’m glad you enjoyed The Unfinished Child. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was a difficult book to write.

    Recently when nominated for a book award, I was described as the “American-born Edmonton author.” I found that amusing because I actually moved to Canada in 1977, so I have lived in Canada far longer than in the States. But you’re right to comment on the healthcare aspect of the novel — or the absence of its discussion. How much does the termination rate in the U.S. (and elsewhere) have to do with medical insurance issues? That’s hard to answer.

    One of the most rewarding things about publishing The Unfinished Child is being contacted by readers. I’ve had many young women tell me that they will have “the conversation” with their partners. What WILL they do when/if they become pregnant? etc. I’m not sure we have the necessary rituals in place in North America to deal with the options that medical technology now offers. Know what I mean? As one of the characters in the book says, “it doesn’t matter what the odds are. When it happens to you, it’s 100%.”

    And are you in Canada, Patricia?

    Best, Theresa

    Patricia Reply:

    Theresa,
    Wise words about rituals and discussions. As a United Church of Christ minister I have done many rituals for families and had many discussions about the ethics and moral questions about terminations. Money, Insurance, and Political discussions are huge here, and folks take these issues very seriously. Most parents have to sue to get coverage for most child surgery procedures here and most terminations must be paid for by the patient out of pocket. Hundreds of women in states like Texas are coming to Washington State for Women’s Health
    needs because it is free here and we have many clinics and discussions from many different groups. Money is the biggest factor – the upper middle class and 1% can go anywhere for their needs.

    I am suggesting the book for our Medical Ethics team on children’s health.

    My father came to Washington State as State Director of Special Education – When I was 16 he was fired from that position for suggesting every child deserves an individual education. My parents had dual citizenship as do my siblings. I was born in Washington State, and have returned here to start my work life. Most of the rest of my family are Canadians. I had family in Edmonton for a number of years.

    I just think you book was a wonderful story that needed to be told and you did it with such style.

    Thank you.
    Patricia recently posted..LITTLE ISLAND: A novel ~Katharine BrittonMy Profile

  3. Sara Healy Says:

    This sounds like a very interesting book.

    I like the concept of women’s relationships and how they coincide with children. It must have been very difficult for a woman to have a Down’s Syndrome child in the 1940s….such a sad label, “Unfinished Children.”

    I will check this book out, Patricia.

    On a separate note, I realized I read your reviews with the same enthusiasm as I do the fiction stories from my prompt sites. I’m always curious about how you will react to a book and its characters. I think this is what makes you such an excellent book reviewer:~)
    Sara Healy recently posted..A Leap of FaithMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Sara,
    Many thanks for you kind words – I do love to read and I like to keep the author’s skilled efforts in mind – it is their baby! – when I am sharing. I have read a couple very challenging books in 2014 and I see that I have a number to go through the July contract….

    I also want to share my words and reactions to the story – then I am delighted if they mesh. Several of the books which I had difficulty with have sold the most copies – nearly every book has a reader who will so enjoy spending time within the covers
    Patricia recently posted..THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa SheaMy Profile

  4. Theresa Shea, author of The Unfinished Child, on tour May 2014 | TLC Book Tours Says:

    […] Tuesday, May 20th:  Patricia’s Wisdom […]

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.
    Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours recently posted..TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for May 26th – May 30thMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    I wish I could get more folks to read this book – it was a good discussion of moral issues, hopes and dreams between friends
    Priceless
    Patricia recently posted..LITTLE ISLAND: A novel ~Katharine BrittonMy Profile

    Theresa Shea Reply:

    Thanks, Patricia, for suggesting my book to the Medical Ethics team. Like you, I think THE UNFINISHED CHILD gives some great opportunity for discussion. IS there a right and wrong here? Can we see both sides? Does the medical community contribute to the high termination rate because of the language around Down syndrome (ie. you have a “risk” instead of a “chance”), etc.

    As for your other comments, it breaks my heart to think that many couples have to make decisions based on finances and medical insurance. The decision to have or not have a child is already a difficult one, but if you fear the additional cost for health care, then it’s REALLY hard. Also, how much does NOT having medical insurance encourage couples to want to know, in advance, about their unborn child’s health? It’s complicated, for sure.

    In any event, I’m glad you were a part of the TLC tour, and I appreciate your enthusiasm for my work.

    All the best!!! Theresa

    Patricia Reply:

    Theresa

    I have another added interest in this subject matter. I was my mum’s 3rd C section and a surprise late pregnancy when my family moved from New York City and Columbia University to Washington State. There were no private medical centers here – the Catholic church had a monopoly.

    My mum could not have a C section here!

    She delivered me in a small clinic down hill from the hospital and I was born with an exterior tumor, bigger than I was, of cancer attached to my chest. My mother was whisked away to the hospital for 10 days of surgery recovery and I went home with the OBGYN to have the tumor removed and be taken care of by his wife for 15 days. It has been difficult to deal with all of my life, because they had to keep the whole procedure a secret.

    One of my children was born with a complete cleft palate, everyone will tell you that they are corrected here in the USA – nope only the lip closure. We were $261K in debt to the repairs and needed surgeries and treatments. We have whittled that down to $165K
    Now with the affordable Health care Act she and I are no longer pre-existing conditions and can get health care insurance in 2014! Only took me 64 years to get health insurance! Money and health are giant concerns – giant concerns still here.

    We need more books about all kinds of problems
    You story is a good one. I just passed on to my dentist too because she treats Down’s children and her waiting area is full of their art!
    Patricia recently posted..THE QUALITIES OF WOOD: A Novel ~Mary Vensel WhiteMy Profile

  6. Sam Juliano Says:

    One of the richest and most profound reviews and comment sections I’ve ever read at this site. And obviously an essential read as well.
    Sam Juliano recently posted..94. The Wedding MarchMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Sam
    You took my breath away! Wow

    I am so enjoying the romantic movie count down – Thank is so fun and I invite my readers to click and come on over to your page
    Patricia recently posted..LITTLE ISLAND: A novel ~Katharine BrittonMy Profile

  7. Theresa Shea Says:

    Wow, Patricia. What a story. I cannot believe a woman would be forced to have a natural childbirth after a series of C-sections. I find it equally troubling to know that parents can owe so much money if and when their child requires surgery of some kind. I visited a Down Syndrome Society recently here in Canada and discussed how much more difficult the decision is whether or not to have a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome if you do not have health care. The current health care system in Canada relieves so much of that stress (although it seems we’re moving slowly and steadily towards privatized medicine!).

    In any event, great comments. Thanks so much for sharing my book with others. Best, Theresa

  8. Patricia Says:

    I think your book is important Theresa Shea – thank you for sharing with me

    Good words
    Yep comments are good :)
    Patricia recently posted..THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY: A Novel about the Angelini Shoe Company ~Adriana TrigianiMy Profile