A prodigious talent blazes onto the American literary scene with this bold, original memoir of her perilous—yet life-saving—addiction to childbearing
With the birth of her first child, Laura Jean Baker found herself electrified by oxytocin, the “love drug”—the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Again and again over the next eight years, Baker finds herself craving the intense highs of childbearing—cravings that, she realizes, align her much more closely with her public defender husband’s drug-addled clients than with their middleclass peers. As Ryan’s roster of defendants increases, so too does their family—nearly to the point of collapse.
Brilliantly crafted, impeccably written, intensely personal, The Motherhood Affidavits portrays a woman, a marriage, a family, caught in an impossible bind. Its heartbreaking resolution raises profound questions about whether we, as a society, are governed by morals or by laws—and whether either is an adequate measure of any one person’s ability to parent and capacity for love.
—Joyce Carol Oates
“The Motherhood Affidavits is a gripping blend of family memoir and true crime, bound together by an acute awareness of class and economic hardship in small-town America. Baker’s frank account of her Midwestern family life and her husband’s work as a public defender reads like a real-life Fargo, by turns darkly comic and desperately poignant.”
—Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl and The Fortunes
“The Motherhood Affidavits is the most compelling and original memoir I’ve read in years. In her profound exploration of marriage, parenthood, baby-lust, and crime, Laura Jean Baker takes a compassionate yet unsentimental look at the ways in which the poor and unlucky are driven to act in ways that might seem unforgivable . . . until we realize how close we, too, have come to committing the same horrifying mistakes.”
—Eileen Pollack, author of A Perfect Life
“Who’s more desperate, the young wife and mother of five, or the petty (or not so petty) criminal? Laura Jean Baker doesn’t ask this question directly, but it’s always right below the surface in The Motherhood Affidavits. With humor, grace, and compassion, Baker connects her own vulnerabilities with those of the driftless and often clueless clients her attorney-husband takes on. What comes of this hard-sought, hard-won wisdom is sublime.”
—Peter Geye, author of Wintering
“Sometimes tender, often harrowing, always a page-turner, The Motherhood Affidavits examines Laura Jean Baker’s own impulse to parent—as well as the full scope and expression of human desire, whether for love, passion, comfort, power, or just plain survival. Stunning and memorable—and definitely not just for mothers.”
—Judith Claire Mitchell, author of The Reunion of Ghosts