Every time I read this book, I find myself more challenged than the time before. When I first read it, I focused mainly on the “wrongful birth” issue which was at the heart of the novel. I still find myself horrified by the idea of saying that any person, no matter how severe their disabilities, should or should not exist. I struggle to put myself in the shoes of the mother who loved her child deeply and completely, but was able to see the idea of “wrongful birth” as an opportunity to provide for that child in ways that she knew she and her husband would probably not be able to do throughout Willow’s life.
Somehow or other the idea of accusing her dearest friend of something so reprehensible became acceptable in the name of a different kind of love. A love that bordered on controlling martyrdom. A love that no longer recognized someone she supposedly cared for so deeply as an individual. No one existed as an individual in her world anymore, especially Piper. Piper had helped her bring that child into being and had the place of godmother to Willow. She became a sacrificial pawn in Charlotte’s efforts to bring about her warped kind of justice.
As people with disabilities often do in storytelling, Willow became a symbol of something else. We see her through everyone’s eyes except her own until the end.
I love this book, but I love it differently than I did when I first read it. It wasn’t Willow’s story at all. I’m not sure if it’s actually about what I thought it was. Is this the story of a mother and her child? Or is really about a world where ableism is so deeply ingrained in the world that such questions are even raised?
The lawyers took a question about the treatment of a family of a child with a disability and turned it into a question about that child’s right to be born. Maybe it isn’t about their right to exist. Maybe it’s about their right to LIVE. The world seems to have a hard time with our right to LIVE.