The story nobody wants to tell
Sheila Traventi, a happily married mother, discovers she’s pregnant with a baby who is missing a chromosome. When she decides to terminate her pregnancy, she smuggles the dead fetus out of the hospital in a department store paper bag, and embarks upon a journey through the streets of Toronto.
That’s the plot summary for A Crack in the Pavement (Goodweather Publishing), the first novel by veteran journalist and frequent Review editorial contributor Georgie Binks, Artsci’75. It’s a fictionalized account of her own harrowing true-life experience. “In 1990, I had to terminate a pregnancy at five months, because the baby was missing a chromosome. I’ve always been sad about it. It was traumatic,” explains Georgie.
After leaving hospital, she recalls fantasizing about having taken the baby with her. “It was an overwhelming desire. I imagined I’d run away in my purple housecoat, to take the baby to my favourite places in Toronto.”
Thankfully, the fantasy never turned to reality, or Georgie, but it did spark the desire to write something about it. Despite the grimness of the tale, the novel is filled with inspiration and humour. “It’s not just a sad story. There’s hope in there; Sheila has a second child, and a happy life, and there’s also some pretty good sex scenes – even one involving a chocolate shop!”
Amusingly, researching that erotic scene proved to be one of many challenges George faced when writing the book. “I went to the chocolate-making shop, and asked the guy if it would be possible for this or that to happen, and would the chocolate pour this way if I were under it?” She laughs as she recalls, “He looked at me like I was a weirdo!”
She began writing more than a decade ago, but left the manuscript sit for a year or two. She went back to it after joining writers’ groups, and then she worked with a professional editor. Friends and family encouraged her, and two years ago she began sending it off to publishers. “I got really nice responses . . . but no contract.”
So Georgie took the “indie publishing” route. “You really have to believe in yourself,” she says of self-publishing. “I was in a group for women who had to terminate a pregnancy, and their stories were tragic.”
Georgie doesn’t presume to preach about this difficult issue. “The book isn’t pro- or anti-abortion. It’s a story nobody knows, because it’s a story nobody ever wants to have to tell. But I had to tell it, and I’ve done so.”