REVIEW: The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney and The Trying Game by Amy Klein

Reviewed by Amy Fish

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Editor’s Note: Amy Fish reviewed two books that chronicle the challenges faced by women who want to have a baby.

Cover of The Other Mothers with photos of three pairs of sneakersThe Other Mothers: Two Women’s Journey to Find the Family that was Always Theirs (Sourcebooks, February 2021) by Jennifer Berney is an LGBTQ memoir about one couple’s struggles to defy the patriarchy and redefine the nuclear family. It dives into the history and social challenges queer couples face when trying to make a family.

Cover of The Trying Game with timer shaped like an eggThe Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind (Ballantine Books, April 2020) by Amy Klein is a comprehensive guide to navigating infertility. Written by the author of the “Fertility Diary” column in The New York Times Motherlode blog, the book includes advice from medical experts as well as from real women. Klein outlines women’s options every step of the way, from questions they should ask doctors to getting family members to “mind their own beeswax.”

Here’s what Amy Fish said about these two books.

What These Two Books Have in Common

  • Both are memoirs
  • Both are written by women about their fertility journey/issues/struggles
  • Both include more references to follicles, ovulation, and cervixes than you would find in most books
  • Both are involved with and comment on the medical-industrial complex
  • Both end with good news (in both cases this means pregnancy and live birth)

What These Books Do Not Have in Common      

  • The Trying Game is more scientific
  • The Other Mothers is more personal

What They Also Do Not Have in Common

  • Jennifer Berney’s partner is a woman so sperm is less readily available, and part of the book is devoted to the quest for available and appropriate sperm.
  • Amy Klein’s partner is a man. This means that sperm is more readily available, however may sometimes be the cause of the infertility, as explained in the chapter “It’s Not You, It’s Him,” as well as the sections about the male biological clock and the glossary of male infertility.

However, To Be Fair…

The Trying Game includes a section devoted to “LGBTQ Paths to Parenthood.” The book is as inclusive as possible, offering the perspectives of Single Mothers, as well as those who are single right now and may want to freeze their eggs for later.

Best Part of The Other Mothers

I think the best part of this memoir was how personal and intimate Berney got when telling her story. For example, “Wherever I went, I held my breath as I pulled down my pants. I stretched the crotch of my underwear between my two fingers and inspected the fabric for anything resembling blood.”

When I read this, I felt like I was standing on the neighboring toilet, peering over the stall at Berney. Which may sound creepy. But what I mean is, I think many (most?) women have been there – either praying for blood or praying not to see blood, either way, we have all (most of us?) checked our underwear, and this was a visceral moment.

Best Part of The Trying Game

The number of topics and amount of research that went into this book is super impressive. For example, not only does Amy talk about the expense of IVF and possible ways to pay for it, she also includes a suggested list of questions for your insurance company such as “How many new doctor consultations can I have?” Does this make for compelling reading? Well, it depends on your perspective. If you’re like me and you like to exhaust a topic, and know for sure that you have left absolutely no stones unturned in your quest, then you would enjoy this book.

I also liked the section called “Speak Up, Woman!” which offered advice for women about how to ask questions even if they are shy, insecure, ashamed or fearful (her words). She says “this is our health, our money, and our care, and we should be able to be inquisitive and assertive.”

Which One Should I Read?

It depends.

If you like to read memoirs of all types, and you are interested in learning about a world you may know nothing or very little about, I think you might want to pick up The Other Mothers. I have read LGBTQ+ stories and I’ve read fertility stories but this is the first time I’ve seen the two together. Berney’s style is fresh and engaging. This is the kind of book you get so involved in, you almost forget you’re reading a book, if you know what I mean.

On the other hand, if you (or someone you care about) is going through infertility, The Trying Game is a must read. It covers every single possible aspect of the problem/the process/the possible resolutions. Klein wrote this book based on her Fertility Diary column at The New York Times, and it includes tons of information, suggestions and advice. She also has a knack for boiling down the science into readable (and understandable) bites.

amy fish

Amy Fish

Staff Reviewer & Interviewer

Amy Fish is a writer of true stories, some of which are funny. She is the author of “I Wanted Fries with That: How to Ask for What You Want and Get What You Need” (NWL 2019) and “The ART of Complaining Effectively” (Avmor 2015). Amy is currently doing her MFA at Kings’ College in Halifax, Canada. She is the Ombudsperson at Concordia University in Montreal, where she lives with her husband and kids.

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