Describing Hogeland’s debut as a book about pregnancy would be overly simplifying, because it encompasses something much larger. A novel that blurs the line between author and narrator, and at times reads like memoir, it takes true-feeling stories and expands them into a compelling, often-heartbreaking tale of belonging, loss, and rebirth. Looking beyond pregnancy’s physical transformations, Hogeland explores what it means to feel parental, to choose a life bigger than your own, or to lose a precious gift. Never veering into the maudlin or histrionic, The Long Answer is a heartfelt, finely wrought journey for fans of Suzanne Finnamore, Erica Jong, and Marian Keyes.
This book addresses all those experiences, truly a breathtaking roundup of the many ways that women carry and lose babies and pregnancies, so many possible and impossible choices to be made, so many capitulations and coercions to be endured. All the narratives in the novel make clear that the only thing that makes any of it bearable is the agency each woman can claim ... The author is a therapist, and reading this book is not unlike eavesdropping on someone else’s session .. Anna is a careful observer of other women — we know this because in yoga class she notices that Corrie’s toenails are unpainted and her yoga clothes are cheap. But these details feel a bit cheap themselves. Corrie is impoverished and her story is appalling and sad, but her problems are never resolved or explored because she gets only a one-episode arc. Does her story matter or not? With women living under the specter of disappearing reproductive rights — yes, her story matters: It is worth hearing and reading. From the perspective of the main character, Corrie’s is one of many stories Anna uses to sort and make meaning of her own life ... I am right there with her, ravenous for women’s accounts, for our histories, portraits and perspectives. Right now these stories are crucial. I will listen to them all, even if this particular novel reads as unsettlingly uncertain about whose story it is — the protagonist’s or the supporting characters’. Whether or not this book brings together their voices harmoniously, it does clarify and reiterate that precious little stands between women and reproductive bondage, and our stories — these lived narratives overheard, whispered, written into novels — continue to show that we have lives worth living, that women are viable human beings.
An introspective, psychologically astute, and engaging debut, this novel delves into territory that is rarely explored in fiction: the raw and devastating costs and painful choices that women face when a new life ends before it can begin. For fans of Rachel Cusk’s Outline or Claire Vaye Watkins’ I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness, here is a heart-rending tale that blurs the line between fiction and reality. In tight, unassuming prose, Hogeland unravels a complex web of stories about other women’s lives, the stories they tell her about their own pregnancies and families, as Anna (the narrator) attempts to pinpoint which parts are true and which are false. At a critical moment we realize that the story she's telling and retelling about these other women is, in fact, the one she has been trying to avoid, the one that wasn’t ever supposed to end up in these pages: her own story. 'This was never supposed to be part of this novel,' she writes ... A startling meditation on grief and family and betrayal and the stories we tell about ourselves.