By Monica Drake
Reviewed by Rose McAllister Croke
Parenthood is so often portrayed on television and in books as the shiny, happy road most taken. In “The Stud Book,” parenthood is depicted in a far less rosy luster. Told from the perspectives of four female friends, each at different stages in their lives, author Monica Drake explores the biological and psychological reasons for having children, and what it means to be a parent in today’s increasingly complex world.
“The Stud Book” is set in the Pacific Northwest. Sarah studies animal behavior and reproduction at the Portland zoo. She is knowledgeable in the mating habits of captive animals, but she and her husband are having trouble producing a child of their own. Sarah wonders why something that comes so easily to animals is such a challenge for her.
Her friend Georgie is busy with a newborn of her own and concerned about how motherhood will change her sense of self going forward. Meanwhile, her husband, Humble, acts infantile and refuses to accept the full impact of being a father.
Dulcet is defiantly single and childless by choice. She teaches sex education to high-school students and actively pursues risky, dead-end relationships.
Nyla is a widowed mother of two, who is on a one-woman crusade to save the world at her new recycling-friendly and zero-waste store. But she is having trouble saving her own teen daughter from the world of drugs and the occult.
“The Stud Book” makes some interesting observations about overpopulation, “baby hoarding” and what parenthood means today. At times, it feels disjointed with the various characters and interwoven storylines. There also are several somewhat crude and gratuitous scenes that seem written more for theatrics than for moving the plot forward.
But patience has its reward when these friends realize that the families they have forged through shared and unexpected experiences are as important as those inherited by birth.