- Pregnant Pause
After years of acting out, Elly is going straight: no more drugs, smoking, drinking, or rule-breaking. Unfortunately, the motivation for all this is that she’s pregnant. Stranded at a fat camp run by the family of her now-husband Lam (it was the only way to avoid living with her judgmental family), Elly tries on parenthood and responsibility as she bonds with the troubled young campers. Meanwhile, Lam is stoned, indifferent, and cheating; his hostile parents and Elly’s self-righteous sister both want the baby; and Elly starts falling for the music counselor. Through it all she struggles with the physical and psychological pressures of pregnancy and the decision she must make: keep the baby or give it away? The combination of camp story and problem novel give the book high appeal, and the characters are complex and sympathetic, particularly Elly as she works through her issues and grapples believably with the forced onset of adulthood. The sheer amount of dramatic incident, encompassing past infant death and miscarriages as well as body issues, drug use, suicide, and finally a chromosomal disorder, almost overbalances the central teen pregnancy and forced marriage plot. Nolan marshals all the threads into an orderly line and mostly avoids outright melodrama, though, and the story will engage readers who like their plots piled high with tribulation. The more skeptical among them may doubt the hopeful message that Elly’s sheer stubbornness and love can trump her dearth of financial and educational resources in providing sterling care for her baby, but after the book’s thoughtful and painful exploration of the damage wrought by various forms of parental disregard, it’s a relief just to leave the baby in the hands of someone whose good intentions and big heart the reader has grown to trust.