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Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict
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Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  253 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Irene Vilar was just a pliant young college undergraduate in thrall to her professor when they embarked on a relationship that led to marriageâ”a union of impossible oddsâ”and fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Vilar knows that she is destined to be misunderstood, that many will see her nightmare as an instance of abusing a right, of using abortion as a means of birth con ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Other Press (first published July 23rd 1996)
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I'm not sure what to say about this book.
I got it because I was curious, and I thought I would learn some kind of important truth about human nature by reading it. I thought there had to be something dark and mysterious that would make someone live like that.
I should have known better.
The thing that strikes me most about the story is how banal it is. It's utterly believable. You can see it happening.
Was she using abortion as a form of birth control? That's the criticism that a lot of people ar
The book is traumatic with a capital, bold T. At one part about 1/3 of the way thru, I threw the book down in disgust and decided I was done. You are warned.

Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar has received a lot of press and been a topic of debate on many a listserv due to the subtitle "Testimony of an Abortion Addict." When I first found out about this book my first thought was "Oh shit." Many people, including Vilar, believe that this book will be used by anti-abortion activists as proof of w
Caitlin Constantine
It's interesting that so much of the discussion surrounding this book focused on her abortions, when really, the abortions were almost incidental to the story. This could have been a book about an eating disorder or alcoholism or cutting, because the point wasn't so much that Vilar had all these abortions as much as it was that she was an addict, just like nearly everyone else in her family (including an older brother who ODed on heroin).

Her issues were no doubt helped along by her relationship
Kerry Connelly
Many who read this book, the author’s memoir or ‘testimony’ of being an ‘abortion addict’, may scrutinize her terribly, (as she realises), as a woman, a lover, and a mother, but one thing you cannot scrutinise Irene Vilar for is being a bad writer.

Not only is this the author’s testimony of terminating 15 pregnancies, but it is also about making many mistakes and sacrificing WAY too much while on the road to finding herself and also dealing with mental health issues.One good thing to come out of
The title is kind of sensational. The book is a memoir of her early marriage to a much older and controlling man, with whom she did have most of her 15 abortions. But it's really about being so anxiety-ridden that she liked being controlled. And a relationship that relied on drama, the abortions were part of that.
It makes me think of the quote "happy marriages are all the same, but unhappy ones are each different". This was definitely a story only one person is ever going to write.

A common ques
Andrea Luquetta
The beautiful writing wasn't enough for me. I wanted more: more honesty, more detail, and most of all, more analysis of the distinct abortions, the battles lost and less often won against depression, the surges in confidence and plunges into self-doubt. Vilar gives us lyric writing that seems pregnant (pardon the pun) with more insight than it delivers. She gives, at the end, a summary explanatory essay that made me feel like the preceding 200 pages were merely an accounting of 35 years of memor ...more
This was a hard book to read. I kept wanting to hug the author, take her away from her husband, help her see the value in herself. Not only is her story heart-wrenching, but her writing style is just beautiful which intensifies the emotional pain of seeing her suffer as an outsider. I was conflicted and wondered how much healing she had done, could have done, at the end of the book. But the last chapter set my heart at ease. I still feel for the little girl who was taken advantage of by her teac ...more
I had a hard time getting through this book. I made myself finish in hopes that there was some redemptive light at the end of the tunnel. I suppose some could argue that there is, but to me this book was a shockingly, and sickeningly, honest look into the selfishness and self-deception surrounding this woman's "addiction." The only value I found in reading it was that it offered me that perspective. It was, however, utterly disheartening and my heart aches for all the children she left in her wa ...more
Glenda Bixler
Impossible Motherhood

By Irene Vilar
Other Press
ISBN: 9781590513200
222 Pages

Somewhere shortly after I began to read Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar, I turned to the back to see if there was an author picture. Such a beautiful woman, but with large sad eyes, even in this photo. As I read about her marriage, I wanted to alternatively "shake" her for allowing her husband to treat her so, and then "hug" her tightly as her mother and/or grandmother should have.

This is a powerful, painful book about an abortion addict, not something I agree with by any means (especially knowing how many women have suffered from infertility & being almost 17 weeks pregnant myself; I am pro-choice for others, pro-life for myself, but 15 abortions in 15 years is excessive). Irene had a tough upbringing, losing her mother to suicide when Irene was only 8, having 2 drug addicted brothers, growing up with an emotionally unavailable father, several suicide attempts of her ...more
I have to respect Vilar for writing this book, but I found her voice incredibly staged and almost manipulative, as if she was enjoying the drama a little too much. The subtitle ("Abortion Addict" was clearly dreamed up by an overeager editor hoping to get her author invited on lots of cable shows), the introduction by Robin Morgan, and the neat little conclusion whereby everything works about because the author brings pregnancies to term and become a mother--it was all a little too much for me. ...more
Julene Bair
Vilar possesses a brilliant intellect and a breathtaking and original grasp of her own psychology. As painful and exasperating as it was to read her testimony as the abortions piled up, it was also thrilling to be taken to such penetrating depths into another woman’s motivations, and to see reflected there some of the impulses that drove me and other women I knew when I was younger. The most amazing feat of all: she articulates her situation so well that we not only understand and forgive, but a ...more
I am not pro abortion, NOR pro choice NOR on the fence. For me abortion is horrendous but for others i think its thier own choice. When i first began reading this book i found the author so relaxed with the fact she had had 15 abortions disgusting! But as i read on i was still horrified but also coming to see her reasoning behind these abortions....

Im still not sure if i dislike to author or not for her choices in life; but her style of writing is certainly easy to read and does captivate the re
Patty Johnson
While Vilar is a good writer, the subject matter of this book is hard to stomach. She's very descriptive as she recounts living with, and later marrying, an older man. Fair warning: Reading this account of her life may be unsettling for women, as she describes most of the abortions in detail. Overall, I'm happy she told her story, as others could possibly learn from her mistakes. However, I feel Vilar falls short in being entirely truthful about whether she is better now or not. But in reality, ...more
I’m going to refrain from a moral judgment pertaining to the topic of this book.

Readers don’t get a holistic picture of Irene Vilar as a person. The manner in which the memoir is written is presented as a series of happenings: “A” happens—some time passes—“B” happens—some time passes—“C” happens—some time passes. She tells you of these events, but doesn’t sufficiently inform you of how these happenings fit into her life as a whole. The writing does not convey the message of a life being more th
I bought this book with a question in my mind of why a woman would put herself through so much pain, terminating the growing little life forms inside of her. It is an incredibly difficult book to read - one that I may not have been so anxious to pick up if I had known about the painful story inside. While reading the book, I found it difficult at times to not judge her harshly - after all, there were several could-have-been children who she herself decided to terminate and it does seem like she ...more
I'm not sure why the author titled the book this way and I'm not sure why she spent so much time focusing on her abortions (perhaps just because they are so attention-drawing?), but this book is not about her many abortions (15 total, if I remember correctly) but about the abusive relationship that she was in at the time that many of them took place and the way this relationship hurt her self-esteem and made her feel as if she had to conform to her husband's beliefs about important decisions, li ...more
This weekend I read Irene Vilar’s Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict. I was drawn in, of course, by the title and the controversy surrounding the book. But the reason I couldn’t put it down was because it was so hard to believe that what I was reading was actually her life, and that she was bearing it for all to read.

The title of this book suggests that it’s heavily focused on reproductive matters, but I found that while the abortions do come up, they are there as supportive
Sep 21, 2009 Irene rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Irene was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Her memoir The Ladies’ Gallery (Other Press, 2009, originally published by Random House in 1996) was a Philadelphia Inquirer and Detroit Free Press Notable Book of the Year and was a finalist for Mind Book of the Year (UK) and the Latino Book Award. Her latest memoir, Impossible Motherhood (Other Press, 2009) won the 2010 IPPY gold medal for best memoir/autobiography and the Latino Book Award for women issues. Both memoirs explore generational and national ...more
While Vilar boldly confesses from the cover of her latest book that she was an abortion addict, nothing comes easily in this emotionally challenging, but very rewarding follow-up to her 1999 memoir The Ladies Gallery. This time she explains that an important part of her story was left out and she's now trying to remedy that.

Most of the book follows her decade-long relationship with her much older professor, the relationship during which she had 12 of her 15 abortions. And while much is clearly w
This book, although it wants to be about so much more, is about codependence and manipulation. The author seems to think herself greatly victimized while she herself was manipulating her husband with constant pregnancy and suicide attempts. I found much of her language insufferable; too often I though, "blah blah blah" when rereading, over and over, about her feelings of abandonment and forced submission. She misuses addiction language to make the book more intriguing on the shelf, but, if anyth ...more
I found this book incredibly tedious, though for some reason, I kept plowing through. I've realized I simply don't like memoirs that avoid retrospection until the very end. At a very young age, Vilar becomes involved with a much older man--a professor--and the course of her relationship with him has twelve or thirteen abortions. I lost count because time is not very clear in this book. The transitions between events are murky; there are very few actual scenes and a lot of exposition but very lit ...more
Cheryl Klein
I read this on the heels of A Million Little Pieces, and I found it as opposite as a memoir can be (which, if you've read my review of A Million Little Pieces, you know is a good thing). It's deeply reflective and quietly poetic. It's slightly nonlinear, and I did find myself having to retrace my steps to get the who-what-when at times, but I appreciated Vilar's ability to approach her subject matter from different angles. Her story is brutal on its face--15 abortions in 15 years--and both more ...more
Naomi Kelsey
This was so, so hard to read, yet in a way a relief to hear someone openly discuss multiple procedures. The author has undergone about 15 terminations, some only months apart. I admit I feel that perhaps her truth is a little blurry, and perhaps the exact number may not be known, but I also think as a work of art this book is important.
"There are as many theories for self-injury as there are trauma survivors--escaping feelings of emptiness, easing tension, expressing pain, punishing the body as a way of expressing responsibility for the 'abuse,' providing a sense of control and mastery. My repetition compulsion was based on impulsive acts to ward off experiencing aloneness and badness. Dissociation was an opportunity for magical thinking, a sense of mastery to overcome my powerlessness, hopelessness, and learned helplessness. ...more
Strangely compelling, despite the fact that the author describes herself in such an outrageously irritating way. What is feminism in the face of self-loathing and fear? Well, now she's a mother. Go figure. The ignorant, youthful idealization of her lover/husband/captor is disturbing. There are brutal facts of trauma, written about with such lightness. Thankfully, once she really grows up and starts to have a life and talents of her own, the Pygmalion love interest gets annoyed that she isn't swo ...more
This was a beautifully written account however stuffed with psychological analyses and packed with (arrogant) intellectual and philosophical quotations. While I tried to understand her justifications I'm still not sure of I was completely convinced by the end. Her epilogue using journal entries to describe motherhood is an unlikely account of contemporary motherhood (not the amount of love but the complete availability). I really couldn't understand any level of attractiveness in her husband (of ...more
Vilar takes a bold chance here writing about a topic that is profoundly difficult to comprehend and certain to alienate her from every one with a political agenda. Being honest has a way of doing that. Politicians and political movements don't want honesty. They want power and control. What Vilar offers in this book is her honest attempt to talk about a part of her life filled with pain and suffering. There is no political reading of this book. A political reading will miss the book. This memoir ...more
This memoir carries the intricacies of psychological dependence or addiction from the author’s relationship with her partner to (in a lesser extent) the abortions. Ultimately a journey in exploration of her self, the everyday struggles and attempts for agency or leverage in her relationship with an older man, and making sense of her puertorrican family history. It is something that almost hurts to read, resonating with abusive relationships there is always the question of why. Why love him? Why ...more
Robin Martin
This is a very important testimony. The subject is very relevant. The author has thought through her experiences with an eye to the psychological implications and some sociological implications. The narration felt very detached, even cold at times; a consequence (or cause) of approaching the subject of her life as a testimony. I suspect the author, reading this now, will have learned even more about herself and the importance of her story and will tell it differently should she tell it again. It ...more
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Author, Publisher, Editor, Literary Agent

"Irene Vilar is a writer of extraordinary passion, erudition, and intelligence"---Tobias Wolff
"This is another dark perfect gem from Irene Vilar. Impossible Motherhood is like a journey into a harrowing underworld but guided by Vilar's gifts and her light we
More about Irene Vilar...
The Ladies' Gallery: A Memoir of Family Secrets message from God in the Atomic Age: a memoir Irene Vilar - Medalhas e Bronzes Maternidad imposible / Impossible Motherhood Un mundo para Julius

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