Author Jane Green On The Modern Dilemma Of The Insta-Family
Author Jane Green has penned a slew of novels about the experiences of women. From her bestselling hit Jemima J, she has since gone on to write considerably more on women as they face the challenges of family and marriage, from BabyvilleÂ and To Have And To Hold. Her new novel, Another Piece of My Heart (available March 13th),Â continues this meditation on motherhood with Andi’s story — a woman who has fallen in love with a divorced father of two girls. But although the protagonist has finally found the family she has always wanted, she is encountering many bumps along the way including a spiteful first wife, infertility, and acceptance from her step-daughters.
You’ve written about motherhood in the past but your protagonist Andi speaks to a very specific kind of contemporary woman, I would say. Marrying a divorced man and becoming a step-mother to two girls, Andi is in her late 30s and coping with infertility. What was your intention in crafting this type of main character to carry the novel?
I wanted to express the naivetÃ© so many women have when they marry a man with children, and particularly how easily the blended family can be romanticized. Most women faced with unhappy step-children early on in a relationship, keep going with the belief that they’re a good person, the step kids will surely learn to love them, and all this family needs, is love.
Andi struggles to be accepted by her older step-daughter but she also struggles quite a lot with getting her husband to understand her infertility woes. Do you think many women can identify with these feelings of isolation in their own families?
I believe lack of communication is one of the largest elements in the mid-life divorce. We think we are being clear, but being heard is something entirely different, and learning to say things, to reveal parts of ourselves in a way in which they will be heard, is something that has to be learned.
One of my favorite elements in the book is how Andi’s neighbors, partners Topher and Drew, have a hand in keeping the older step-daughter out of trouble. Do you think modern mothers are truly subscribing to the “it takes a village to raise a child” approach to parenting these days?
Given how many of us live far from our families, we have to. In the past, we have relied on mothers, sisters, aunts, to help raise our children, to babysit when we have appointments, to step in and lend that helping hand. Now that life is so transient, we create that same support system out of our friends and neighbors.
Andi discovers during her personal quest for a baby that she is perimenopausal. I gathered that had she not been visiting doctors about her infertility, she may not have even discovered this about herself in the first place. Do you feel that many women remain in the dark about their bodies and reproductive systems prior to seeking fertility assistance?
When something has felt slightly amiss, not enough to go to the doctor, not enough to keep you in bed, but enough for you to become accustomed to, it is very easy to forget that life was ever different. The feeling amiss becomes the new normal, which is how Andi grew so used to it she didn’t think about it.
In the midst of her own fertility problems, Andi discovers that someone very close to her, and much younger, is pregnant. This seems to be becoming a common part of the infertility narrative as there is much talk on Mommyish regarding etiquette when your close friend or relative is pregnant and you yourself are struggling. Do you feel that this is a growing concern for women, both struggling to conceive and the effortlessly fertile?
I think it very much depends on the individuals. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, my closest friend was pregnant at the same time. We had gone through everything together, and I was thrilled and excited to be going through the most exciting event in our lives. At five months, she lost the baby, and refused to speak to me until she was pregnant again, many months later. I understood she wasnâ€™t able to see me, and we resumed our friendship where we had left off. Again, clarity of communication is vital. If you are genuinely thrilled for a friend, despite your own problems, tell them. Genuine emotion and selflessness are always apparent. If it is difficult, tell them that too. A true friend will understand.