Reece is a trans woman who wants badly to be a mother, but, since her girlfriend Amy detransitioned, she’s been in one futile relationship after another. Amy, now Ames, has a new girlfriend, his cis boss Katrina. When Katrina reveals that she’s pregnant, Ames realizes that he cannot cope with the idea of being a father, but perhaps he could figure it out if Reece were involved. And so he proposes a new sort of family.
Author Torrey Peters tells this story using two timelines, one post-conception, as Reece, Ames, and Katrina try to navigate their new relationship. And the other depicts the years before conception, as Reece and Amy fall in love and fall apart. The present-day, post-conception timeline generally held my interest more, because the situation is so unusual, but there are some memorable moments in the past storyline, and the insights into Ames’ past choices is important.
Reece, Ames, and Katrina each has a unique and sometimes self-contradictory view of gender, their relationship to their gender, and what it means to for they relate to other people. None of it is easy or clear, and each one of them makes massive, sometimes self-destructive and sometimes hurtful blunders as they try to figure it out. And Peters doesn’t seem to be trying to push readers to take a specific perspective on these characters, other than recognition that they are all human, flawed and worthy of respect. I liked this a lot about the book. I suspect different readers will be frustrated by different characters at different moments. It’s that kind of book, where everyone is sometimes maddening.
I suspect, too, that different readers will have different thoughts about the ending, both what does happen and what should happen. I haven’t made up my own mind yet, perhaps because every decision the characters could make is fraught in a different way. But that’s how life works. If Peters were to present a clear answer, it would, I think, make the book feel too trite, too conclusive. This book is too much about the ongoing complications of figuring yourself out for a clear conclusion to feel correct.