Erens registers this without preaching and without judgment, creating one of the most realistic and harrowing portrayals of birth you are likely to encounter in fiction. She has also written an indelible portrait of two women coming to terms with the desire, fear, crushing losses and fragile joys that have carved their lives, and who know what it means to fight every hour, every minute, to take another breath.
Erens excels at mapping the mind’s movement between present action, memory, and back again — several passages in which the concrete illuminates consciousness and vice-versa achieve an almost Woolfian sublimity, as when Lore, looking at a painting in the hospital, hears Julia’s voice critiquing the art for being amateur and sentimental...But for all the stylistic wonders of Eleven Hours, the book’s success depends on its quieter, structural feats: Erens has built her story with architectural rigor, manipulating plot, perspective, and pacing to build narrative tension and heighten suspense.
The writing is candid without being sensational, detailed without being clinical. This admirable novel reminds us that even when childbirth is overseen by caring professionals in state-of-the-art facilities, it still arrives on waves of blood.