Review | Mother of Invention, Caeli Wolfson Widger

36520870What if technology could reduce human pregnancy from nine months to a mere nine weeks? In a world where women are expected to be able to do it all, such an invention has the potential to minimize the impact of pregnancy on other aspects of a woman’s life. Mother of Invention has an intriguing premise, and for the most part, the story moves at a quick and interesting pace.

The protagonist, Tessa Callahan, is the business/marketing half of Seahorse, a company that researches ways to reduce the biological burden of motherhood on women (named after an animal where it’s the male who carries embryos throughout the gestation period). Tessa and her business partner Luke Zimmerman, the son of a wealthy tech genius who wants to make his own mark in Silicon Valley, have developed what they call the Seahorse Solution. Its science is based on an unexplained series of nine-week births in the 1990s and early 2000s, whose babies appear to have grown up normal except for a cleft on the top of their head.

The story follows the first human trial of Seahorse, with Tessa supervising the pregnancies of three women volunteers. The work inspires complex feelings in Tessa, who had never wanted a child of her own until she and her husband tried to conceive and failed. Parallel to this narrative is that of the original accelerated gestation syndrome (AGS) babies and their mother. Without giving too much away, there’s a government conspiracy involved, and one of the babies, now 20, wanting to dig deeper into the mystery of the circumstances surrounding her birth.

I loved the story about the Seahorse Trial and the heightened emotions of the women involved. I also enjoyed the parts about the office politics between Luke and Tessa, and how Luke’s daddy issues lead to him making some unprofessional decisions in his work.

The story about the original AGS babies and the government conspiracy didn’t grab my interest as much. I liked the story about one of the mothers who had to deal with an accelerated pregnancy she didn’t understand and a baby she didn’t want, but the parts about the government agent and his guilt over his job due to the love he feels for an AGS woman weren’t as exciting. I think part of it is that this government agent was initially in love with the mother, and while he still has some affection for this mother, he now has romantic feelings for her daughter. That just really grossed me out, and even when this part of the story took a sweet and emotional turn, I just couldn’t get into it.

Still, the writing was strong, and I was enjoying the read until the end. Without giving away spoilers, Tessa makes a decision somewhere near the end of the book that just makes no sense to me given what we’ve seen of Tessa’s character so far. Worse, the twist happens so late in the book that things are tied up far too rapidly. There’s an odd time jump of several months just before the final chapter, and the result is that we don’t really have enough time to process the odd decision-making and the way things turn out.

There’s a lot of discussion throughout the book about the wisdom of shortening the gestation period, as perhaps women need the nine months to become ready — physically and psychologically — to become mothers. I wish this could’ve been explored a bit further, and perhaps the odd plot acceleration in the end was the author’s own way of demonstrating her stand. Either way, it’s an intriguing question, and the ending took me out of it.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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