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Book Review: Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar

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Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict is the “true” memoir of Irene Vilar. Her first memoir, The Ladies’ Gallery was, according to the writer, a glossy, sanitized version of the truth.

Vilar has plenty of material for a meaty memoir. Her grandmother was an infamous Puerto Rican revolutionary who spent most of her life in prison. Her mother killed herself when Irene was eight. Her father was an alcoholic. Two of her three brothers were life-long heroin addicts: one died of an overdose, while the other managed to clean himself up, but it took over 20 years to do so. Irene was sent to multiple boarding schools before finally ending up in university at age 15. She suffered from extreme bouts of depression and multiple suicide attempts, and fell in love with a professor nearly three times her senior. Irene spends over a decade with her professor (never giving him a name), and has 15 abortions in as many years (13 of them with her ex-husband).

The book never gets trashy or sensationalistic; it is stoic in its honesty. The “why” is not answered until the very end of the book. Vilar admits to being addicted to the “drama” an abortion allowed her: the fantasy and euphoria of mothering a child, the gradual stress and fear a child caused, and the feeling of calm that overcame her once she aborted the fetus. With a controlling husband, her own body was the only thing she herself had control over.

As Irene grows older and finds the success as a writer that her husband never found, she finds the strength to leave her “master.” A less meaningful bad relationship and a few more abortions follow before she finds her current husband, and the two eventually have two, healthy daughters.

It’s a fascinating story that is lyrically written. Occasionally Impossible Motherhood drags with digressions, and I would have liked a little more in the “why” category, not just why Vilar had her multiple abortions, but why she remained with her ex as long as she did, why she felt no sadness in the loss of her mother, why she was prompted to attempt suicide so often. A story that could have read like a fictional soap opera story is told in an honest, real way.

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