Emma: Desperately Seeking Baby, by Joanna Butler

For the past few days, every spare moment I had was spent reading Joanna Butler’s debut novel Emma: Desperately Seeking Baby. Whether it be a 5-minute coffee break at work or sitting in a café waiting for a friend to arrive, I simply had to know how Emma, the hilarious and heart-warming leading lady, was getting on.

Loosely based on her own experiences, Butler tells a story of a young, newly married couple, Emma and Jeff, and their difficult journey through the confusing world of infertility and IVF treatment. Infertility is a tough topic to take on, as a writer as well as a reader. For someone who likes a good bit of escapism in a novel, I thought I might be in for a tough read, but Joanna manages to tackle this topic in an informative and simultaneously humorous way. She had me laughing out load and, admittedly, also shedding a tear or two.

Butler has a true knack for storytelling. In her honest and light-hearted style she creates a connection between her characters and her readers and holds back neither in the narrative nor in the language. Her direct and open language helps to create a strong yet relatable character in Emma – your new best friend by chapter two – which makes it possible to tackle the subject of infertility in a truly honest and refreshing way. Emma’s all-consuming and isolating obsession with all things IVF-related and her resulting behaviour is at times understandable, heart-wrenching and frustrating but it, at all times, rings true.

From the get go you are thrown into the lives of Emma and Jeff. The moments they share – of both marital bliss as well as struggle – are ones to which the reader can relate, truly  bringing life to the novel. Unlike many relationships and friendships usually depicted in this genre, this relationship feels both credible and genuine. Your heart truly goes out to them and this emotional connection makes you unable to put the book down, as you want to know where this unpredictable story will go next.

Many of us take for granted that once we find the perfect partner, we can settle down and start a family whenever we might feel like it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and for many the journey to create a family is a tough one. With this novel, Butler opens up the discussion of infertility and treatments for it in a way that is both heartfelt and humorous, witty yet comforting.

Whether you are starting a family or already have one, this is a fabulous read that comes highly recommended. Packed full of touching moments and insights it will also have you laughing out loud. Just what the doctor ordered.

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Hannah is an interior designer, stylist and writer living in Nelson. A Brit/Cloggy among Kiwis, whether she’s busy with floor plans or fabrics, she’ll always find the time to read and will never leave the house without a good book in her bag – or sometimes two or three! Hannah especially enjoys reading women’s fiction, biographies and the classics.

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