“Heads or Tails” by Erin Gordon is a beautiful examination of family, precisely what makes or doesn’t make a family.
Hillary is perfectly content with her husband and their routine, a routine that doesn’t have room for children. But after her best friend, Margot, jumped through hoops to have a baby she is diagnosed with postpartum depression. Despite knowing all about Hillary’s opinion of children, Margot asks Hillary to take her baby so she can get well. You already know from the back cover that Hillary does take the baby home. Here’s where Gordon launches into a story well known to many: a new “parent” who has no idea what to do now.
Hillary enters this agreement thinking her own childhood didn’t set her up well enough to ever become a mother, so she writes off the possibility. By making that type of all or nothing decision she unwittingly limits herself and her life. She limits herself by not only closing off the possibility that she might make a good mother, but also that she might find fulfillment in something (or someone) other than her job or hobbies.
This novel also calls on us to reflect on what a bond means. Just because you’re not blood, does it mean you can’t be family? Is a family just a wife and husband, who then become a mother and father, who joyfully welcome a child without question? This novel shows us certainly not, in more ways than one.
Gordon does get a bit repetitive at points when she’s working up to a reveal, but hey, it’s only her second novel. I did enjoy how she works to appeal to both west coasters and east coasters alike with her descriptions of San Francisco and New York City. And whether you’re a baby person or not, Gordon paints a picture of life with a baby that makes you cringe, cry and cheer right along with Hillary.
It’s a thought-provoking look at friendship, family and love. Love it or hate it, I think it leaves all readers with the same question: what would YOU do?
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