Review Blog

Nov 26 2009

Mama's song by Ben Beaton

cover image

Black Dog Books, 2009. ISBN 9781742031057.
(Age 15+) Mama's Song covers a week in the life of a teenage girl, Georgina, in which she runs away from home and gives birth to a baby in a country hospital.
The reader sees Georgina's character develop through the experiences of childbirth and caring for a newborn baby, including learning to breastfeed, and also through the relationships she forms with other characters based in the hospital.These include an older first time mother, Mary, who has battled infertility to have her baby and another young mother, Nasreen, whose premature baby is battling for life.
The main narrative is interspersed with a series of flashbacks which provide some background to Georgina's character and the situation she finds herself in.These include a sexual encounter at a drunken teenager party as well as Georgina's experiences at an abortion clinic and the decline in her relationships with her family and her peers.
While the novel does not celebrate teenage pregnancy, it does show the protagonist as someone who has the strength and resolve to take control of the situation in which she finds herself. At the end of the novel, the reader is left with a sense that Georgina and her baby (whose name is said to mean 'hope') will be okay. It does not provide any indication of the struggles Georgina might face once she leaves the sanctuary of the hospital but hints at a reconciliation with her mother and stepfather. This will presumably enable Georgina to return home and access family support in raising her daughter, something that not all teenage mothers will have access to.
I did find this a beautiful and highly readable book. I think would appeal to girls over the age of 15 as well as to adult readers. It is quite short so would be easily read by a less confident reader although encouragement may need to be provided to persevere beyond the first few chapters, which are a bit sparse on plot detail. The emotions surrounding birth and the early days of parenthood are keenly described and brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions. I would love to see a sequel covering the period after Georgina leaves the hospital as I feel that this is where her real journey into motherhood will begin.
Catherine Seal

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