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An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination    by Elizabeth McCracken order for
Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
by Elizabeth McCracken
Order:  USA  Can
Back Bay, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Writer Elizabeth McCracken didn't get married until she was in her late thirties, and her pregnancy came as a welcome surprise for both her and her husband. They were living in France when they found out that they were expecting. So American born Elizabeth and her British born husband moved to a large house that they were able to rent in the countryside and waited for the baby. They both continued to work on their writing and made happy preparations for the birth. Elizabeth found a midwife she liked, but she also saw doctors at regular intervals. Unfortunately, as happens sometimes, this story did not have a happy ending. The baby was stillborn, producing incredible sadness in the parents. However, Elizabeth chose to write about her experience, and An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, is the result.

Even though the subject matter is almost unbearable, this account is wonderful. The story of the pregnancy and subsequent events is told in a simple style that doesn't lack humor. I got the feeling that although Elizabeth was never attempting to entertain, her personality is so vibrant that the humor just shows through in spite of herself. She and her husband had a pet name for the baby before it was born, as many people do, and that name was Pudding. Because the baby had never had any existence under any other name, this was the name they gave the French hospital personnel to put on the death certificate. There's nothing funny about that; it's more a reflection of the state of shock they were both in. Also, the fact that most of the people in the hospital spoke French allowed them to name the baby without question.

Elizabeth finds herself expecting again soon after the first baby dies, and the story of the second pregnancy (following so soon after the first disastrous one) is also told, as a comparison to the first experience. The sensitivity and honesty with which both stories are told are extremely moving. I loved this book. There were so many things about stillbirth that I didn't know and that I couldn't even imagine. I think anyone who ever waited for a child to be born - hoping for the best outcome yet fearing all the myriad things that could go wrong - will find An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination well worth reading.

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