Theresa Shea


Gripping.  Heart-wrenching.  Thought-provoking.  Riveting.  Haunting.  Unputdownable. … I broke down in tears many times throughout this deftly imagined story, and although I wanted to be able to summon up some righteous outrage at times, what I mostly felt was enlightened and a deep compassion.  It drives home the fact that despite the debates raging about prenatal testing, abortion, and inclusion, nothing is black and white, and there are no easy answers. This is a must read for not only parents in the Down syndrome community, but for all parents, and for anyone who appreciates masterful story-telling.  I will not soon forget this book.

Shea is a gifted writer with a deft hand. Each woman has a distinctive voice and seems life-like, complicated and flawed. One of the strengths of the novel is the way it addresses some many topics and issues; female friendships, Down syndrome, pregnancy and the way people approach birth and life. It’s also a book about secrets, and how keeping secrets can hurt relationships. It’s a novel about motherhood and family, and the choices people make.

Shea doesn't provide easy answers, but shows us what women faced and face, in fluid, beautiful language. The Unfinished Child is wonderfully and determinedly set in Edmonton: An Edmontonian will walk down Jasper Avenue and go to lunch at Da-De-Os with Shea's characters as easily as a New Yorker stalks Manhattan with Dorothy Parker or Susan Sontag.

… the various strands of the plot come together in a gripping climax, raising compelling questions about moral responsibility in a 21st-century world that offers more choices than were available to the Harringtons decades before.

I recommend The Unfinished Child to any mother or woman who wishes to become a mother; however, anyone who reads it will be compelled to identify with these troubled characters and their overarching dilemmas, and consequently develop empathy for the real-life Carolyns, Margarets, Elizabeths, and Maries. Although the story is largely delivered from a female perspective, male readers will still be emotionally and intellectually stimulated by The Unfinished Child, especially those with a personal connection to someone either living with a disability or dealing with genetic testing. The novel broadened my awareness of the problems with genetic screening and the profound purpose of people with disabilities; Theresa Shea will surely have more to teach us in her future work.

Theresa Shea delves deep into themes of motherhood and friendship.  I found myself wanting more, reading eagerly to find out what the women did with the issues facing them.  Elizabeth and Marie discuss genetic testing, in vitro fertilization, adoption, abortion and more as they navigate their complicated friendship.  As someone familiar with Edmonton, Alberta, I also enjoyed the descriptions of the city and its surroundings and even appreciated the descriptions of a bleak, cold winter.