Flesh & Blood: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life

N. West Moss (The Subway Stops at Bryant Park) was accustomed to blood, yet clots soaking through pads and running down her legs came as a shock in her early 50s. "My uterus and I have been at odds for forever," she remarks, but this hemorrhage was so acute she drove herself to the ER. She needed an exploratory D&C, a cruel flashback to the failed pregnancies of her 40s. Soon she faced a total hysterectomy to remove a hemangioma. In Flesh & Blood, she tenderly traces the before and after of surgery and how she came to terms with childlessness.

While she doesn't shy away from medical details, Moss delves more into the emotional effects of her condition. "Being ill has made me meet the world with a more patient heart," she notes. It's a chance to slow down, reconnect with her mother, who supervises her convalescence, and appreciate the companions who get her through: her husband and cats, Claude the praying mantis and the memory of her beloved Grandma Hastings. Post-recovery, a month house-sitting in Holland tests her newfound confidence, while resuming her writing reminds her "there's more than one way to be fruitful."

The few-page chapters are warm slices of life. Moss leavens her losses with a sense of humor, as in a tongue-in-cheek list of questions for her surgeon ("Do you have a periscope?"). Realistic about illness's challenges and gifts, this memoir is recommended to readers of May Sarton. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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