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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 1590513207
Pages: 240 pgs
Genre: Memoir
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

 Publisher’s Description:

Irene Vilar was just a pliant young college undergraduate in thrall to her professor when they embarked on a relationship that led to marriage—a union of impossible odds—and fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Vilar knows that she is destined to be misunderstood, that many will see her nightmare as an instance of abusing a right, of using abortion as a means of birth control. But it isn't that. The real story is part of an awful secret, shrouded in shame, colonialism, self-mutilation, and a family legacy that features a heroic grandmother, a suicidal mother, and two heroin-addicted brothers. It is a story that looks back on her traumatic childhood growing up in the shadow of her mother's death and the footsteps of her famed grandmother, the political activist Lolita Lebrón, and a history that touches on American exploitation and reproductive repression in Puerto Rico. Vilar seamlessly weaves together past, present, and future, channeling a narrative that is at once dramatic and subtle.

Impossible Motherhood is a heartrending and ultimately triumphant testimonial told by a writer looking back on her history of addiction. Abortion has never offered any honest person easy answers. Vilar's dark journey through self-inflicted wounds, compulsive patterns, and historical hauntings is a powerful story of loss and mourning that bravely delves into selfhood, national identity, reproductive freedom, family responsibility, and finally motherhood itself—today, Vilar is the mother of two beautiful children.

My Review

I don’t know quite what to do with this book. I am as liberal as the next pro-choice advocate. I firmly believe that every woman has the right to do what she wants with her body. This book challenged my beliefs quite a bit. And not in a good way.

Before I read Impossible Motherhood, the idea that a woman would use abortion as a form of birth control seemed fairly ludicrous to me. With all of the other options available, why go to such extreme lengths? Why have 15 abortions when you can take a pill? Vilar classifies this as an addiction. I don’t necessarily agree with that. It seems to be more of a compulsion than an addiction. She also seems to consider this self-mutilation. I wholeheartedly disagree. She took down 15 lives during her “self-mutilation”.

There were some portions of this book that pushed me to the point of rage. First of all, it’s not that this woman did not have access to the pill, she just chose not to take it. She chose to be irresponsible. Also, did she even consider the doctors that were under constant attack from anti-abortion groups. When her doctor told her that his clinic had just been attacked with acid, she just kept going. That completely mystified me. This is coming from an abortion supporter, you must remember. Vilar did nothing other than abuse the right other women had fought for. Women's rights are constantly challenged, especially with abortion, do we really need to fuel the fire.

The writing in the book was generally good. I could appreciate this book for her writing style if nothing else. It was conversational and engaging. I wanted to feel some sort of empathy for Vilar but I just couldn’t. I sympathize but I can’t understand.I tried to separate my emotions when reviewing this book but found I couldn't.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.


  1. This book sounds maddening and self-indulgent. That was my first question reading the synopsis - She..can't take the pill? She would have to be mentally ill to have one abortion a year for 15 years.

  2. I'm also very much pro-choice but found myself very angered by your review so don't think I could put aside my judgement enough to bother reading the book. That is just irresponsible and sure it sounds like she's had a rough life but so have a lot of people and that certainly doesn't justify such behaviour. Whether she sees it as her form of birth control or not, that's exactly what it is and that's immoral and wrong in my opinion, and as I said earlier, I'm certainly not anti-abortion.

  3. Stephanie-I completely agree. She had the pill. She just chose not to take it. Which made it all the worse for me. Completely made me crazy with rage.

    Pam R.-Writing the review made me angry, so, I can understand you being angry reading it. I am amazed at how many pro-choice people have had really negative reactions to this me. Me included.

  4. [...] Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict-Irene Vilar [...]

  5. why didn't she just get her tubes tied? some women are so far off the radar it's scary.

    And this is one book I will definitely not read! Ughh!

  6. I have to wonder the purpose behind publishing a book like this. Do the publishers suspect people will read this because it sounds so revolting, or do they really think that this will appeal to certain readers? Judging on the reactions to this review (and this very good review in itself), the latter seems unlikely. Then again, so does the former. It's quite strange.



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