There’s nothing like finding a book that is so open and honest, you feel as if you’ve found a window into the author’s psyche. That’s how it feels to read Marianne Apostolide’s latest, Deep Salt Water (BookThug), a powerful memoir about abortion and the experience of loss as it evolves over time. It’s a beautifully crafted, necessary work that offers a look into the before, during, and after of ending an unwanted pregnancy.
Apostolides divides her book into three sections comprising 37 individual pieces – one for each week in a full-term pregnancy. While this is quite carefully considered and risks reading as too strict or rigid in construction, it in no way impedes on the quality and creativity of the author’s writing. Throughout, Apostolides draws on imagery of the ocean to illustrate the emotional turmoil surrounding not only her abortion but also her relationship with her lover, which is rekindled 17 years after their separation.
We flutter in the rage of time.
We stand at the breach, as the leap, of becoming.
This liminal ‘nowhere’ where life must start.
But attraction gathers into a boundary: a body.
“I need to talk about the abortion…”
You pull back, abrupt: “I’ve moved on,” you say.
As poetic as Apostolides is, and as enchanting as Catherine Mellinger’s accompanying mixed media collages are, it can’t be ignored that this book is doing what many, unfortunately, struggle to say out loud. It spares no detail, allowing us to get a sense of what abortion really entails, from the decision to the waiting room to the actual procedure and its aftereffects.
I can’t help but recall a time in a high school classroom when, separated from the boys for our own discussion of our sexual and reproductive health, the idea of abortion was presented passingly – a fleeting topic to be addressed but not delved into much further. At the end of the class, the sex educator who had come to speak to us passed a bowl around for us to slip anonymous questions in. On my small rectangle of paper, I asked her to describe exactly what happens during the procedure. I thought it important to know.
The immediate discomfort that this question caused was (and most often still is) emblematic of how abortion is stigmatized in North America. By penning an account of her own experience, Apostolides adds to the growing amount of work that frankly and unapologetically addresses abortion and gives us an intimate glimpse of its very personal impact on those who choose it for themselves. In doing so, the book serves to dispel some of the mystery imposed on the subject, giving readers, particularly curious young women, a portal through which to more fully understand it.
If I’d said I wanted to keep the baby, you would’ve knelt to the floor in an instant. With my hand in yours, you would’ve proposed: a life, a marriage, a mutual effort to grow and love. I know this is true. The choice of whether to abort must reside in the woman, since this is where the embryos lodge.
The decision was mine, though the baby was ours.
It’s a quandary I haven’t been able to rest.
Of course, as in other works that have been praised for their honest depictions of abortion (think Gillian Robespierre’s 2014 film, Obvious Child), there is far more beyond that to admire. Apostolides laces her book with little gems, using unexpected words as verbs (“I citrus the orange,” or, “We’re unable to octopus what we’ve released”). The result is charming and colorful – each page brings a new discovery in the way the author describes her interactions with the world around her.
In Deep Salt Water, Apostolides is as open with her readers as she is inventive with her language, providing a unique space for those looking to learn more about abortion or who have experienced it themselves. She asks, not too far into the book, “What is the language to talk of abortion?” It’s a good question. She’s helping us answer it.
(BookThug, Creative Non-Fiction/Memoir, Paperback, March 2017)
LESLEY LEROUX is a writer, editor and artist based in Canada’s capital (originally from Newfoundland). She graduated with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Her fiction, nonfiction and photography have been published both in print and online, and she has occasionally dabbled in radio and television. She is a feminist, bibliophile and yogi who can be found tweeting about any of the above @LesleyLeRoux.