Reema Ahmad reviews Zehra Naqvi’s debut book – The Reluctant Mother (Hay House Publishers, 2021) and calls it the story of a Reluctant Reproductionist.
There’s a painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, created in 1893. The agonized face in the painting has become one of the most iconic images of art, seen as symbolizing the anxiety of the human condition.
When I read Zehra Naqvi’s book The Reluctant Mother, my entire being felt like it had erupted into a scream like that. I experienced myself boxed in by the frames of the painting, my soundless scream trapped in my throat and yet hanging timelessly in a loop visible to all, and yet heard by none.
The book had touched a raw nerve I had successfully buried, hidden, and had tried to forget for a good fourteen years. All of the horror that my own experience of childbirth, the various forms of emotional and physical neglect I had suffered then, and the brute physicality of pain, naked terror, and wounded animal rage that I had felt when my son was born, leaped at me from the pages. I couldn’t read it in one go. I had to take a breath lest parts of the past that I thought I had healed threatened to engulf me again. This book was too personal. And I think it will be personal to most women who read it.