The Nine Month Plan
by Wendy Markham, contemporary (2003)
Warner, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61175-1


Nina Chickalini starts out a decent heroine. She is friends with Joey Materi, a childhood friend who has always be there for her and her family. He was there when her father suffered from a heart attack, especially. They even were each other's first time, and that happened when they both got a little drunk fifteen years ago when Joey's bride-to-be Minnie left him at the altar to be a nun. Today, thirty-six year old Nina is at the brink of a new direction in her life. Having sacrificed everything to take care of four siblings and her father and running the pizzeria, she's now going to see the world. Or Europe, at least. For the first time, Nina will be leaving the Queens.

"You know," I tell myself, "for a book with a title like The Nine Month Plan, this seems like an actually good book."

It takes eighty pages before everything blows up in my face.

I want to dig out every strand of hair out of my head with a rusty ten-inch nail, eat them all until I choke to merciful oblivion from the hairball that result, anything but to endure another offensive, insulting, badly plotted, contrived, fake, artificial, ersatz, ridiculous, stupid, moronic, insipid, and gangrenous story like The Nine Month Plan. Reading this book is like the Attack Of The Stupid Baby Plots all over again. The characters don't behave like people with at least two functioning brain cells, and everything is layered in a relentless agenda that makes a tea party for two with Ann Coulter a much preferable ordeal to endure.

It begins innocently with Nina remembering about her late mother (that died while bringing a kid to the world) and wishing that she knows her mother more. Then, when Joey asks her to be the surrogate mom for his kid, she decides to wa-hey, do it, because she wants to give him a thank-you gift (see Daddy's heart attack) and a bye-bye gift before she leaves for Europe! I scratch my head with a garden rake. What happened to her wishing she had a stronger bond with her late mother only pages before? Character consistency, people, is thrown out the window for the Harlequin And The Happy Stupid Single Mothers agenda.

It offends me that that Joey wants a kid just because, wa-hey, he wants a kid and he wants it now. It makes me furious that Nina is letting him have the kid because she twists her decision into some weird duty and gratitude complex. It absolutely makes me see red when both of them and Wendy Markham treat this issue of a baby as if the baby is a piece of cold turkey ready to be tossed and thrown around. To add to the insult, these two decide that the artificial insemination thing is too unpalatable so they must do it the "natural" way. And when Nina tells him that, she also tells him that they must do it that very night or she will never be able to go to Europe in time. Pui!

And the story never recovers from that grievous insult to my intelligence.

Nina never leaves the Queens. Wow, I didn't see that one coming. In the end, she isn't even given a choice, not when Joey realizes that he wants her to stay and decides to use her pregnancy as a means to manipulate and keep her there. There are also secondary characters that live, breath, talk, and sleep dysfunctional motherhood, impending, post-natal, or just plain whacked. There is an insufferable air of male-folk condescension here, especially when Nina's father tells her that should Nina's mother know that delivering her kid will endanger her life, the woman will do it anyway so that the kid will be her "gift of love" or something. Joey spend the entire story "convincing" Nina that motherhood is good and she can get more "involved" into it if she listens to him. It is very easy for Dumb Daddy and Stupid Joey to talk about women doing the "right thing" by making babies: all these men have to do is to stick their thingie in, squish it around, and then complain to some nubile woman that their wives don't understand them anymore because wife is now big, round, and bad-tempered. I say we make these men carrying the brat for ten months, make them change the diapers and feed them for the next few after the birth, make them choose the decision between their lives and that of the unborn child. Then we'll see how smug these people will be when they talk about good women sacrificing their dreams for their "rightful place" in taking care of the menfolk. (Of course, Joey is rich - is that a compensation to giving up one's identity and opportunity to discover one's self?)

For that's what this author is writing about. She's not writing a romance novel as much as some bizarre right-wing tract about Nina finding the true calling in her life by continuing to take care of the family and the kids, with now the bonus extra-curricular fun of carrying kids. Since she's thirty-six, it is also irresponsible of her and he to fool around reenacting dumb Harlequin series novels this way. And with the plot being Nina wanting to leave even as it's very obvious that the author and everybody in the story will never let her leave, The Nine Month Plan is like a one-way rollercoaster ride straight down to the total brain meltdown.

Wendy Markham's previous book is a Red Dress Ink. I will be very interested to know whether she espouses such stupidly presented right-wing pro-motherhood agenda that sets back feminism by at least two hundred years in that Red Dress Ink book. Is the ridiculous rigmarole in The Nine Month Plan just a calculated marketing ploy by this author also known as Wendy Corsi Staub to get herself on Friends Of Ann Coulter's Christmas party invitation lists? Have we come to a point where chick-lit novels are targetted to cynical liberals and romance novels to rigid right-wing conservatives? Or maybe I'm just reading too much in a really horrid book.

I think I may be more amenable to Wendy Markham's channeling Carol Brady Gone Crackpot if the book isn't so stupidly plotted without any logic or continuity in characterization. The author can write, if the first few chapters are anything go by, but she just... throws everything away to present an omnibus edition of Harlequin's Worst Moments Showcase. There is nothing like a disagreeable agenda presented in the most unpalatably moronic way to make me feel like launching into my own version of The Vagina Monologues, with a very special climatic scene of me handing out copies of this book as free kiddie toilet wipes to the poor single, unwed mothers lining up for welfare aid.

Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to pick up a book.

Rating: 21


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