Sunday, May 25, 2008

Windfalls by Jean Hegland

Published in 2004. 338 pages.

Windfalls - the second novel of American writer Jean Hegland - was the Book Buddies pick for May. This was my first exposure to Hegland's work. (Although I have had my mom's copy of Into the Forest on my bedside table for several years, I've yet to read it.) I found Windfalls to be a meaningful, emotional analysis of what it means to be a mother.

The following passage about the character Anna's feelings following her second daughter's birth powerfully describes the burdens of motherhood:

And suddenly a million threats suggested themselves to her. It was as though she were still dilated, still open and unfiltered, as though she were a lens that admitted all possible light, and every shadow. She thought of SIDS and AIDS and hidden heart defects, of strange viruses and untended swimming pools, of childhood cancers and E. coli-laden hamburgers. She remembered all the appalling numbers that filled the newspapers, the thousands of extinctions and billions of pounds of toxic chemicals that threatened the world. She thought of global warming, nuclear winter, and silent spring. Clutching the windowsill and staring down on the city stewing in all its ugly light, she wondered how she could ever feel safe again. [p. 146]

What I loved best about Windfalls was its depiction of motherhood as the truly tough, gritty, and on-our-own thing it is. Anna talks about this idea:
"We're all so alone, in mothering," Anna went on, her voice low and raw. "We can talk about how our lkids are doing in school and the cute things they say. We can even complain about how they're driving us nuts. But we can't talk about how much it terrifies us to love them as we do, or talk about how much we scare ourselves, trying to stay sane while we raise them. We can't talk about how much they teach us, how much they cost us, how much we owe to them. Or- " She shrugged. "Maybe it's just me." [p. 297]

There is a Book Group Guide here and a Q&A with the author here.

If you have reviewed Windfalls, please let me know. I'd love to link you here.



  1. I tried to get this to read along with Book Buddies, but it's status is saying "Being Traced" on the library website, which I suspect is code for Lost!

  2. I really liked Into the Forest but haven't read Windfalls yet. It sounds pretty good!

  3. Hi Alison,

    Jean Hegland is one of my favourite writers. I enjoyed reading your post about "Windfalls". "Into the Forest" is one of those novels I keep rereading, always finding new things in. I love it!

    Too Many Books, So Little Time! Was it Zappa who said that? It's a great name.