Periodically I get emails from authors or publicists asking if I will review certain books here. I keep my review policy pretty simple: I don't accept books for review. I do this for several reasons: 1. I cannot handle the thought of more mail coming into my house that I have to open and try to organize, and 2. I really want to be free to say what I don't like about books, and I am often uncomfortable doing that when someone has sent me a free book. I also really don't like feeling like I "have" to read something, and my local public library is excellent. I never have any problem finding things I want to read and I never have any shortage of reading material.*
That paragraph got away from me a bit, but the point is, sometimes authors or their publicists contact me to read certain books, and that happened with Deanna Fei's Girl in Glass: How My "Distressed Baby" Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles. When I receive those emails I often do let the author know that I will read the book, if I can get it at the library and if I feel like it, and this was one of those books. It also got quite a bit of press attention when it was published.
And it was okay that it did; it's a fairly interesting book. The glimpse inside a natal intensive care unit, and the feeling of how utterly horrifying it must be to give birth at roughly 5-and-a-half months pregnant, makes it a worthwhile read on any level. (Although I wouldn't recommend it if you're expecting yourself, or have just had a baby and are still worrying about anything that can go horribly wrong at any second.) Sometimes it got a little melodramatic for me (the author is a graduate of the Iowa Writer' Workshop, after all), but one thing I really appreciated was the author's bravery in sharing how she often wondered if it wouldn't be better for her daughter (and easier for her) if her daughter simply didn't make it. That's a horrifying thought, but it's an honest one, and I appreciate the author's willingness to share it.
Where I feel the book struggled a bit was in organization. The first half is about the premature delivery and the author's time with her daughter in the NICU; suddenly the author shifts in tone and narrative to the story of her struggles with their health insurance and her husband's employer's (he worked for AOL and the CEO at the time was Tim Armstrong) blaming of "distressed babies" like hers for running up the costs of health care. Again, this story is told well. But the two halves of the book seemed so distinct and so different, it was like they were different books. Personally I would have preferred a bit more integration of the stories. But perhaps that's not the way it went: I can certainly picture if your baby is in the NICU, that would blot out all other concerns.
Speaking of being all over the shop, I'm sorry for the disjointed nature of this review. I'm disjointed lately. This was an interesting book; do give it a try if you can handle the sometimes gut-wrenching details of helping tiny, tiny little babies live.
*TIME to read, on the other hand, I still find distressingly hard to come by.