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Book Review: ‘Loved and Wanted,’ by Christa Parravani

LOVED AND WANTED
A Memoir of Choice, Children, and Womanhood
By Christa Parravani

This story begins, as many untold stories do, with a pregnancy test. A woman alone in a bathroom. Two lines. One for each choice, ostensibly: keep it, or don’t. This woman flings the test at the tiled wall. Tellingly, it bounces right back.

Like so many women, she’s dreaded this result. Like so many, she is already a mother of all the children she thought she wanted. Like so many, she doesn’t think she can afford another child. And like so many, she lives near no safe and available options to terminate; she can’t even openly inquire about termination at her ob-gyn’s office. Furthermore, she is tethered to a man she loves, the father of her two children, who recuses himself, emotionally and logistically, from what she might need to move forward either way. Your body, your choice, he tells her, as though those words conferred some totality of support, all the feminist scaffolding a wife could need.

The woman telling this story, “Loved and Wanted: A Memoir of Choice, Children, and Womanhood,” is the writer Christa Parravani. The man in question is her husband, Tony. (Close readers of Parravani’s first memoir, “Her,” will know he is the writer Anthony Swofford. You might remember him from his own best-selling memoir, “Jarhead,” and the film adaptation of it.) Parravani tells us she is “a woman who looked from the outside to have it all.” And yet: “I would need to provide for a third child with the negative $75 in my checking account at the end of every month. Rent was well over half my take-home pay. Groceries, heat and water, student loans, credit card bills, car payment and day care claimed more than the rest. Tony paid our phone bill. Most of his money he kept to himself. I had to ask him for money for basics, which he mostly didn’t provide.”

[ Read an excerpt from “Loved and Wanted.” ]

By the time Parravani finds herself panicking in the bathroom, Tony has made and mysteriously lost quite a bit of money. The family has moved to Morgantown, W.Va., where she secures a faculty position in the writing department at West Virginia University; he has the exact same job but at higher pay. It doesn’t keep him there long: He vanishes to Los Angeles for extended periods of time, where he earns an irregular income writing for television, while she teaches, writes and raises their daughters, one of whom comes home from school (parochial) to announce that mommies don’t work.

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