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Trigena (Trig) Gilmore loves her wife, Karrie. Though often busy with her carpentry and remodeling business and volunteering as a member of a Search and Rescue team for the Albuquerque area, she tries to take time out to make sure Karrie knows how much she means to her.
Professor Karrie Gilmore is a successful university teacher approaching tenure. She and Trig have a terrific relationship. However, when she announces she’s ready to have a baby, Trig balks, unsure of her feelings about becoming a mother and a provider for an expanded family.
During opening chapters of New Life, Trig struggles with her lack of desire for children, her concern about her ability to be mother to the couple’s expected child, and, since the nature of her business is a varied income, she worries about her contributions during the time Karrie won’t be able to work. Her expressions of angst continue throughout character introductions, while backgrounds are revealed. Although the struggle for Trig to come to terms with being a parent remains a theme throughout the tale, the story picks up the pace and becomes much more interesting as the main characters deal with unwanted interference from the baby-daddy, Karrie having an accident which may jeopardize the baby’s well-being, a threatened job loss, her confrontation about the status of the couple’s relationship in light of Trig’s doubts, and, while on a search and rescue mission, the trouble Trig gets into, which threatens everything for which these two women are struggling.
Both main characters are well drawn. Trig is a flawed character, grappling with her place as the family unit she’s envisioned begins to change. Karrie is more self-assured, but in the end, she’s someone with underlying insecurities, too—which come to light when the possibility of losing Trig becomes a reality.
Minor characters have enough dimension to enhance the story without overpowering the main characters and their message. Karrie’s father is conservative with misgivings about her choices and family. Friends Justine and Danielle are a support to both women. Midwife Jules is practical and knowledgeable, especially when it comes to handling either woman’s anxieties. Sperm donor David comes onto the scene like a villain, but turns out to be misguided. The newbie at Search and Rescue, Mark Kline, who plays a pivotal role later in the story, is a bit of an inexperienced bumbler, but he has an endearing personality.
Several subplots enhance the story and give it some interesting twists and turns along the way. Karrie’s father, Leonard, and his issues with Karrie’s choice of spouse and her decision to have a child, feature prominently at the beginning of the story, but this subplot gets cut off, making it seem unnecessary. It may be that Gayle was trying to bring the issue of race into this part of the story, but it doesn’t gel and is finally dismissed without real purpose to the whole. The other events in the story work well and, to enhance the tension in the story, the author gives us skillfully crafted chapter endings to propel us forward, wanting to read more.
New Life signifies a new beginning, a renewal, or a fresh start. In this romantic journey, the main characters must find their fresh start if they are to survive the stresses and turmoil of a renewed life together. It’s a story filled with Trig’s angst and the soul searching each of the two main characters must do if their relationship is to survive. It begs the question: what is the definition of family and motherhood? And it remains to be seen if the disruption of two lives with a third will mean survival of the relationship or its demise. New Life is a thought-provoking story with charming main characters who seem more real because of their struggles.
By Jan Gayle
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781626398849. 264 pp.