Sunday, November 5, 2023

"All We Could Still Have"

Diane Barnes is the author of More Than, Waiting for Ethan, and Mixed Signals. She is also a marketing and corporate communication writer in the health-care industry. When she’s not writing, she’s at the gym, running, or playing tennis, trying to burn off the ridiculous amounts of chocolate and ice cream she eats. She and her husband, Steven, live in New England with Oakley, their handsome golden retriever.

Barnes applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All We Could Still Have, and reported the following:
On page 69, Nikki is having lunch with her best friend, Sharon. Before meeting Sharon at the restaurant, Nikki had a big fight with her husband about trying IVF one last time. She invited Sharon to lunch to talk about the fight.
“I can’t wait. I’m running out of time.”

“Women our age get pregnant all the time,” Sharon said.

“They don’t.”

“Believe me, they do.” Something about the way she said it caused me to study her. Her cheeks reddened, and she looked away. I continued to watch her as she picked up a glass—the water glass. She hadn’t touched her beer. Every muscle in my body tensed. This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t fair. “You’re pregnant.” It came out as an accusation.

She flinched. “Fourteen weeks.”

When she was pregnant with Cameron and Noah, she told me the day she took the home pregnancy test.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

She pressed her lips together.

“You don’t think I can be happy for you?”

“Are you?”

My throat burned the way it sometimes did before I started to cry. I hated myself. She was right. I wasn’t happy for her. I was pissed. I should have been the one who was pregnant. “You don’t even want another kid. You call Noah the little beast.”

“It’s a funny nickname. I love that kid to death. You know that.”

“No, all you do is complain about how much work the boys are. Noah’s impossible to potty train. Cameron won’t eat anything and has to be entertained all the time.”

“I don’t think you want to hear about the good stuff.”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“I feel guilty telling you about it.” She picked up her beer glass and took a sip.

I slumped against the back of the booth. We had always told each other everything.
All We Could Still Have is about a couple struggling to have a baby and the impact of the struggle on their marriage. Page 69 works because it shows that Nikki is obsessed with having a baby. Sharon shares what should be good news, but Nikki only thinks about the news in terms of herself. She also learns that her relationship with Sharon is changing because of her obsession, Sharon no longer confides in her. Though Nikki doesn't see it, the change mirrors what’s happening in her marriage.
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--Marshal Zeringue