As a mom who writes about the intersection of life, work and parenthood, I sometimes smugly think that I have the higher ground when it comes to musing about the parenting life; how can a man possibly understand the complicated lives we mothers live? And the few dads who do take it upon themselves to write about their fathering experiences often couch it in standard-issue stupid/funny dad-stuff – teaching their kids how to make icky bodily noises, playing baby-too-high-in-the-air with their young children, and an abundance of pre-adolescent whining about lost youth and opportunity.
But David Ebenbach has created a completely different paradigm of man-into-dad literature. His beautifully-crafted stories take the reader into the lives of his characters, both men and women, and leave us wanting more.
Although each story stands alone, four of the book’s gems follow the life of Judith, a new mother but not by choice. Judith is single, a young and hungry journalist, and like many young urban dwellers, still in search of herself. But a night fraught with indecision and passion leads her to an unplanned pregnancy, which she, surprising even herself, decides to keep.
We meet Judith after the baby, whose name has not yet been chosen, is coming home from the hospital. Her parents, in from Indiana, are crowded in her small city apartment, trying to make the best of a complicated situation. Once they had accepted that Judith was indeed, having a baby, that there was no apparent father, and that she was in it alone, they swooped in, determined to help.
While grateful for her parents, Judith still struggles. The most difficult question is what to name her baby girl. Judith, although not observant, is Jewish, and the question of naming the baby – an important Jewish ritual – takes on gargantuan proportions in her first days as a mother.