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Sheila Heti, voice of a generation, has some thoughts about motherhood.
Ayoung family is bivouacking at the table across from me at this Cuban sandwich spot in Toronto’s west side. It’s the familiar flurry of winter coats and diaper bags and awkward stroller manoeuvring that accompanies all parents who dare to eat out despite having a baby. They aren’t especially loud or disruptive; all the adjusting and nesting and near-constant problem-solving is just normal life for parents. There’s a term for what is happening here: “synchronicity,” maybe, or “confirmation bias,” or “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon”—which is that thing where you learn a word or a concept or about a thing and then it starts popping up all over the place. The family across the aisle wouldn’t be noteworthy at all, really, if babies weren’t on my mind. And they’re on my mind because I’m waiting to have lunch with Sheila Heti, the CANLIT It girl (if that’s possible), about her forthcoming novel, Motherhood.
But the subject of her book, which is a kind of internal deliberation on whether a particular woman—who happens to share a few striking biographical details with Heti—should choose to have a child or not, isn’t the only reason I notice the young family. It’s how the novel displays Heti’s way of thinking, how it jumps from one theory or epiphany to the next, like the diary of a young philosopher, and how she spins meaning out of random chance and stray observations. Motherhood hasn’t just made me think about babies; it has made me think about thinking about babies. And with me in that state, new parents walking in right before Heti does seems significant. »