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A Better Woman

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About the Author

Susan Johnson, an internationally acclaimed author, has written four novels, including Hungry Ghosts, which is available from Washington Square Press. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.


Before she had children, Australian novelist Johnson believed that she could easily juggle pen and paper with formula and nappies. But the real story here is not so much her attempt to manage motherhood and work as it is her ability to do all that while coping with an injury she sustained during childbirth. She describes how a fistula (a tiny tunnel running from the inside of her anus to the inside of her vagina), created by a third-degree tear, caused her physical and emotional distress postpartum. Told in crisp, writerly prose, her story is as poignant as it is aggravating this reviewer could not believe that Johnson was not more bitter toward her national healthcare doctors, who instructed her to walk with the tear to another wing of the hospital to breast-feed her baby. While Johnson seems to take her injury in stride as merely a terrible byproduct of a beautiful miracle, one hopes that her story teaches others to question the authority of doctors. A good addition to larger collections, especially where there is interest in birth-related complications. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Australian novelist Johnson covers an astonishing amount of territory in this seemingly simple story of new motherhood. Belonging to a generation of women who imagined themselves in complete control of their bodies and their lives, she writes, "My body was the vessel in which I sailed, and I never once imagined it capsizing." But capsize it did, and she articulates the ravages wreaked upon her person, marriage and life in a voice at once literate and excruciatingly intimate. Chronicling a tale of two pregnancies in quick succession in her late 30s (medically considered old for first-time mothers), a resulting rare complication of childbirth requiring several surgeries to repair, Johnson lays bare her broken body, sharp mind and alternately wounded and soaring heart. Admitting that she writes about things she has not dared to speak of even to close friends, she explains, "only in my writing am I free to express the unutterable." With a fresh economy of words, Johnson omits nothing, from the weary breach in her marital relationship to the all-consuming nature of new parenthood; from the financial woes of freelance writing to the assistance she receives from Australian maternal health centers that American mothers can only envy. She expertly weaves raw emotion and physical agony with insightful musings on being a woman, daughter, wife, mother and writer. Johnson provides an affecting memoir of loss and pain, strength and survival, fear and despair, love and joy. She successfully captures the unique season of her life that made her "a better woman," through both the living and the writing of it. Agent, Margaret Connolly. (Apr. 9) Forecast: The simultaneous publication of Johnson's novel, Hungry Ghosts (Forecasts, Feb. 18), should keep the media's eye on this author; she's a perfect candidate for women's TV and online programs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Isabel Allende I am writing these lines with tears in my eyes....An extraordinary book from a great writer and a great woman. The Sydney Morning Herald Writing so fiercely beautiful the pages seem to tremble with the weight of their words. A Better Woman will entirely possess you as you read. Kirkus Reviews Transcendent....Beautifully written and remarkably wise....A distinguished memoir: one of those rare insights into motherhood that describes the magical and the mundane with equal insight and honesty.

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