My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Cider House Rules by John Irving provides insight into the painful, politically charged, topic of abortion. Homer, an abandoned orphan, is the champion of life and finds the idea of abortion repugnant. Wilbur, the surgeon Homer considers father and mentor, feels passionately that a woman must have the right to choose. Each man sways us.
The emotional devastation wrought by the abandonment of unwanted children is sensitively told. We imagine the orphans waiting for adoptive parents, listening for the sound of cars in the lane…hoping, crying when other children are adopted. We feel Wilbur’s pain as he remembers patients dying in anguish from sepsis after tortuous attempted abortions from unskilled charlatans.
Irving crafts a human story, beautifully told, of ordinary people confronted by difficult decisions. He presents the perspectives of women caught in situations beyond their control, making it difficult for the reader to remain neutral on the subject. We are drawn in, slipping on the razor’s edge of the moral question of abortion as Candy, Grace, Lorna and Rose Rose tell their tales. We consider our view on abortion as we examine their predicaments. Is abortion, regardless of any circumstance, murder? Is it cruel to create unwanted orphans that are likely to be neglected and abused rather than to abort a fetus? Should a woman have sovereignty over her body? Irving seems to be asking us to consider these questions, and more.
When faced with unwanted pregnancy, a woman chooses her rules according to her moral or religious code. The reader may not condone abortion but, after reading this book, must acknowledge that the decision to abort is not always an act of irresponsibly selfish women choosing a frivolous method of birth control.
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