The Room Lit by Roses by Carole Maso

Carole Maso is one of the few authors who I will read over and over again. Her work has a quality that just gives and gives each time I read it. Oddly, I haven’t even come close to reading all of her work. With the short time before work for the semester really starts in earnest, I decided to grab a few books to frantically and recklessly read before I got down to business. That has involved forsaking some exercise and sunlight to read while lounging in air-conditioned spaces–sometimes with a popsicle.

I grabbed a few new books from the New York Times Bestseller list along with Carole Maso’s The Room Lit by Roses. I began reading it after working a long shift as a doula. My wrist was sore (still not recovered from a bike wreck two months ago) and my body weary. I tossed by hospital clothes in the hamper and showered the hospital germs away and propped myself up in bed with pillows on my cool white feather down comforter (enter also swamp cooler and popsicle).

I was done thinking about childbirth and labor when I cracked the spine and for the first time realized the rest of the book’s title: A Journal of Pregnancy and Birth. The universe clearly wants me to examine the issue more closely, so “here we go again,” I thought. I scarcely could put it down until it was finished about 24 hours later with the strong impulse to turn around and read it again, which I will not do right now.

Years ago, I read The American Woman in the Chinese Hat and read it again to prepare for my trip to France. I assume I’ll return to The Room Lit by Roses if I become pregnant or want to write more extensively on the topic. For now, I’m glad it exists and I’m glad I can return to it. What I love about Maso’s work is how real and raw and open she is. The ultimate sacrifice, I get the feeling that she splays herself open for us, dear reader, and for art and probably for world peace. Carole Maso is one of those authors for whom I am incredibly grateful.

Sometimes a line or two will be entirely dumb and petty and ugly, which works to magnify the stuff that is brilliant and important and beautiful. As I read her work, I find myself saying yes! That’s how it is. That’s how I feel! She wrote, “Always knew I wanted to have the experience of pregnancy.” I swear I say those exact words. The rest of it, the child, the life, that’s the part I’m not always sure about. But pregnancy and labor, yes. It’s such a bizarre and most intense human experience that is felt only a few times, or once, or never, so of course I’d like to have that. Maso puts into words how absolutely terrible and wonderful and necessary the experience can be, and I clung to each word.

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