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Nicole Saunders. Nicole Saunders, $12.99 trade paper (356p) ISBN 978-1-7337542-0-0
A surrogate mother fights for the life of a couple’s unborn child in Saunders’s stirring if didactic debut, a parable about the rights of the disabled. Annalyn Winston, a broke college student with a traumatic past and an alcoholic mother, turns to a surrogacy firm as a form of income. Gerline Caslon struggles with depression, anxiety, and recurring nightmares about her previous miscarriage. Desperate to save her marriage with her controlling husband, Abington, she acquiesces to his plan for them to hire a surrogate, and they are matched with Annalyn. During Annalyn’s pregnancy, a test reveals the Caslons’ baby will be born with spina bifida. Unwilling and unprepared to raise a disabled child, Abington pushes to terminate the pregnancy, but Annalyn resists. Saunders lays out the story through narration from Annalyn, Gerline, and the Caslons’ wheelchair-using lawyer, Akon Tahiri, a man torn between his desire to advocate for the rights of disabled people and his need to support his family. These lives overlap and intersect in surprising ways, leading to an ending laced with hope and tragedy. While Saunders’s prose tends toward the simplistic, she makes her characters’ interlocking dilemmas palpable. Great for book clubs, this one will leave readers with much to discuss. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 11/20/2020