Reading 'Bed Rest: A Novel' is pure pregnant fun
I was an English literature major at a serious liberal arts college, so I'm a bit of a literature snob. I read books like the aforementioned I Don't Know How She Does It, enjoying bits and pieces but dripping with guilt over their lack of literary heft and picking out all the flaws despite myself. When I opened a padded envelope and saw the uncreatively-titled Bed Rest, sent to me by a publicist for review, I immediately pooh-poohed its bold, blue-and-pink graphics and the cover reviews, obviously positioning it against the lightweights of Brit-centric chick lit. It was a week or so before I picked it up to read the first chapter.
Instantly, I was hooked, and ended up finishing the novel in a few days, forsaking both work and crafty pursuits (and, if you want to know the truth, my own children) in my guiltless addiction. What Plum Sykes said about this being great even if you haven't been pregnant? I think it's true. The beauty of Bed Rest is that it's not just mommy lit, and yet (at the same time) it's so true to the experience of pregnant moms.
Best of all, I saw so many people I knew and recognized in this novel. Like so many books of its ilk, the heroine is British (as is Sarah Bilston, herself), transplanted to New York City (ho-hum, right?). Her husband is trying to make partner at a prestigious law firm. She's pregnant and, in the first pages of the book, is prescribed bed rest because of her insufficient amniotic fluid. She has to stay home from her own prestigious lawyer job and navigate her tricky relationships with her own mother and sisters, as well as the trials of trying to remain faithful to the bed rest when her husband rushes home around midnight each night for a quick bite. Meanwhile, she's absolutely starving all of the time and can't stop thinking about food. Oh, Quinn, how well I relate to you! (And boy, did reading this book make me hungry.)
There's plenty of drama and intrigue, with a subplot about some evil landlords who are trying to evict the charming, fixed-rent Greek population across the street and a couple of juicy love affairs thrown in for good measure. But none of it seems forced, or unreal. I never wince because of skipped-over legal details or bit characters made into caricatures. Everyone is real, from life, often from my life. And I'm a little in love with them all. The ending is happy but not perfect, a continuing struggle. The married relationship is fraught with the same trouble that all my friends' relationships are: there's no affair, there's no perfect bliss. It's just as difficult and nuanced and riddled with miscommunication as is my own relationship with my husband. The baby is not born into happy ever after. And that's as it should be.
A few days after finishing the book, I spoke to my business school roommate, Kelly. She's living a life so similar to Quinn's; her husband is trying to make partner in his Washington, D.C. law firm, she's temporarily given up her career to focus on the kids. A few days later I talk up the book to Larissa, who was on bed rest at about the same time I was. We admire Q for following the rules better than we did. Another few days later still, and I recommend the book to Niki, who spent much time on bed rest while her husband was working ungodly hours.
We've all been there and Sarah Bilston understands. Until I start writing novels, I'm nominating Sarah Bilston as the totem, the symbol of all moms I know. She's now our official spokesperson.
And now this book will wend its way around my mama universe to Larissa, and Niki, and Kelly, and we'll see if they love it as much as I did.