Elisabeth Hyde,
The Abortionist's Daughter
(Knopf, 2006)

At its core, The Abortionist's Daughter is a mystery novel, but I wouldn't dare cheapen it by assigning a genre label. This is modern literary fiction at its best, with reflections on a marriage between two high-profile professionals, on the trials of raising a special needs child, on raising a teenaged daughter and, of course, on the ethics of abortion.

The plot centers on the bludgeoning death of famed abortion doctor Diane Duprey. An outspoken activist, Duprey had garnered plenty of attention and a few public enemies in her two-decade career. She had a laundry list of restraining orders. On the other hand, her husband, the district attorney, had a violent temper, and the neighbors have heard their glass-shattering fights over the years. All of this leaves Dr. Duprey's college-age daughter, Megan, with a host of unanswered questions, including suspicions about her own father's whereabouts on the night of her mother's murder. Megan also has her own personal and romantic life to deal with, in addition to the complete upheaval of her family situation.

Author Elisabeth Hyde delivers a subtle twist in the murder of Diane Duprey, but it is only one of a half-dozen low-key (and entirely plausible) twists in the lives of this small Northeastern town. The outspoken pro-choice reverend has several of his own skeletons in the closet, Dr. Duprey had recently violated her own restraining order to have conversations with the reverend, Dr. Duprey's husband refuses to disclose his activities in the hours preceding his wife's death, there is a scandalous affair in the past history of the husband and wife, a cop is accused of questionable behavior with a witness, and daughter Megan has used questionable judgment in dealing with an ex-boyfriend.

This is a thoroughly engrossing novel that addresses a spectrum of topics from family relations to parent-child relations to love affairs to true crime. While the slant of the book is decidedly favorable to a pro-choice viewpoint, the anti-choice perspective is also portrayed in an objective and thought-provoking manner. Fans of this book may enjoy the movie Vera Drake, which is similarly philosophical on the topic of abortion.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
8 July 2006

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