Susi Fox’s debut novel, Mine, reflects her background as a doctor who, like many these days, has taken to writing about her experiences.
Sasha the protagonist is a pathologist, who gives birth to the long waited for child for her and husband Mark. An emergency caesarean was required, and she is in the local hospital with ‘the reputation’, not the Royal where she had planned to be, ‘with its homely birthing suites and clean, airy rooms [and] … the midwives are attentive and caring’. When she wakes up she doesn’t believe the baby is hers. Ultrasound had suggested she was having a girl, and she is presented with a boy. Other physical characteristics don’t seem right to her.
She had a traumatic experience early in her career, involving a baby boy, that made her move from paediatric medicine to pathology. Memories of this event keep coming back to her as she fears for her own baby.
Her mother left her and her father when she was young. Sasha had thought she didn’t want to have children of her own, believing she would be inadequate as a parent, like she felt her mother was. But then she found she did want a child, and her body did not go along with her mind. She tried everything bar IVF and finally became pregnant, and it stuck. Her marriage however suffered through this process, as is often the case.
The story is mainly told from Sasha’s point of view, but some of it comes from Mark. His history is told, including the loss of his twin brother to cancer, what he knows of Sasha through her father, and his thoughts on Sasha’s belief that the baby she has been given is not theirs.
The pull between a mother’s intuition and the facts that are presented are teased out through the book, keeping the reader engaged, and attitudes towards motherhood and mothering are shown from many perspectives. The struggle to get pregnant, the loss with miscarriages and the ways men and women respond are well portrayed.
Medical aspects are included naturally, as Sasha self-assesses her own mental and physical health, and evaluates the medical system and the care she is given. She knows all too well and is fighting against the fact that ‘Once a formulation has been made, a diagnosis reached, once hospital staff have closed ranks, there’s little chance of convincing them to change their minds’. This is an experience I have had recently. Sasha doesn’t feel she has anyone on her side, except for friend Bec, but she is on the other opposite end of the world.
Questions behind Sasha’s childhood, and the truth about her baby are slowly revealed. This is a thriller with many topical layers, and a great debut. I look forward to more from this author.