The Nursery

Pantheon. Mar. 2023. 208p. ISBN 9780593316849. $26. F
DEBUT The unnamed narrator in literary agent Molnar’s debut novel is an in-demand translator happily married to the supportive, loving John and eagerly awaiting the birth of their daughter, affectionately called Button. Then the narrator switches from blissful anticipation of Button’s birth to shock at childbirth’s assault on every intimate part of her body and mind, which plunges her into a dangerous downward spiral of exhaustion, pain, and depression. John, who is ineffective in addressing the severity of his wife’s distress, returns to work, and their upstairs neighbor, a frail older man named Peter, steps in to help. As the narrative alternates between events before and after Button’s birth, the narrator’s unwanted thoughts of harming Button increase, and John’s inability to take decisive action imperils this little family.
VERDICT Molnar offers a harrowing cautionary tale about postpartum depression and the terror it can cause as it strips away any sense of control over mind and body. Some descriptions are so raw and graphic that one almost wants to read them with eyes half-closed. An important, unromanticized look at the instant, drastic changes new motherhood can bring, though a caveat: it does not address the relief that early medical intervention can provide.
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