Although she loves her baby boy, Charlotte (Char) is determined to have a baby girl. She remembers sharing special moments with her mother and longs to replicate them with a daughter of her own. Obsessed with having a daughter, Char discovers internet sites that teach the practice of at home gender swaying. Ian, her husband, is skeptical but goes along with Char to keep her happy. However, her obsessive behavior leads to unexpected consequences for her, her friends, and her family.
Theme of the Book
The two main characters in the book, Char and Bella, are both in thrall to the idea of having a baby girl. It is their obsession that nearly destroys the lives of the families involved. While Swaying focuses on determining gender, the element of obsession is what brings about the events of both Char’s and Bella’s lives.
What I Liked About the Story
Swaying is a very well-written yet depressing story. Char reveals herself to be not only obsessed with the idea of a daughter, but insecure in her position as a woman and as the wife of Ian. She feels a desperate need to be in control of all elements of her life. Char’s romanticized ideal of the mother/daughter relationship (intimate lunches, happy shopping trips, shared confidences) is hardly the picture of reality for most families. This desire for a daughter leads her to try the most outlandish methods of ensuring that her next baby will be female. From egg whites to lime tampons, Char’s methods begin to drive Ian away.
Char is not a likeable character, but she is extremely well-drawn. Ms. Blanchard has managed to paint a portrait of a weak yet determined woman, ready to follow fads and the advice of online friends yet unable to understand her husband’s feelings.
Other characters in the book are equally well conceived. Bella, a friend, also determined to have a daughter, is secretive and mysterious. What happens to Bella and her family is a result of Bella’s need and obsession for a baby girl. Rosie, Char’s best friend, is the only realist among the women in the novel. She is able to see what is happening to Char yet remains supportive to the end.
Readers should have sympathy for Ian. His character is generally loving and supportive but when he reaches his limits, his relationship with Char changes. The change is understandable from his point of view.
The plot has enough surprises that it kept me reading for an entire afternoon. Readers will become so involved with the characters and the twists and turns their lives take that it will be hard to put the novel down.
Although the book is fiction, the practice of swaying is a real one. Being beyond the age of child bearing, I had no idea these practices existed outside of the lore of old wives’ tales. Besides being an enthralling story, this was definitely educational for me.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
There is very little to dislike about Swaying but I would like to comment on the topic of the book.
This is not a criticism of the story as such, but the practice of swaying is not an easy topic to read about.
To see women so desperate as to become caught up in unscientific theories and spend inordinate amounts of time, money, and effort fruitlessly was difficult. To me, after having done some internet research on the topic, the type of swaying described is on the same level as using apricot pits as a remedy for cancer. I appreciate the author’s ending of the novel as it may discourage some women from using these practices.
Swaying is a difficult book but one that is certainly worthwhile. Ms. Blanchard has written clearly and well about a sensitive topic. The characters, the plot, and the language all make this a book worth reading.