Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love
The feelings one goes through when waiting for a pregnancy test to share its results—as if it is the one in control and not simply a step in the dance of sex and love—ranges from deranged desperation to being at peace with whatever outcome. We have all been there, but could you recall it in words, minute by minute?
The protagonist in Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love, Joel Miller, wakes to his live-in girlfriend Lisa’s request that he head to the drugstore and buy a pregnancy test. For the rest of the book Miller makes that trip, waits outside the bathroom for Lisa to put the tab in the cup of pee (which takes her hours; “this is the best pregnancy test they had?” she asks), walks the dog, and has an espresso, a beer, and many cigarettes.
Like many fiction class assignments, Lauren Grodstein’s debut novel is personal, swings back and forth between the present and past, and focuses on a half a dozen hours that serve as the spine holding flashbacks together. Miller spends the limbo afternoon thinking about his past and the people in it: his crazy mom, Bay, and good ol’ boy pops, Stan, his best friend, and his ex-girlfriends—especially his last, his perfect, Blair. All the childhood stories illuminate his determination to “stay” with women because he had to stand by Bay as she drove Stan out of her life with neediness and depression. His memories of Blair prove he never got over her.
But Reproduction makes for strange reading when you discover the story revolves about him, because, first, a woman wrote this thing and, second, it takes two to tango with a pregnancy test. All you learn about Lisa is that she is a hippy bitch of a first-grade teacher with long hair, big boobs, and a broken leg. Miller is a sensitive guy through a woman’s eyes, and with him we get the breakdown of why it all breaks down. But through the ins and outs of Miller’s head, heart, and history, Grodstein makes a good case that reproduction is not the flaw of love: We are.