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The Unfinished Child

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  997 ratings  ·  121 reviews
Finalist for the Alberta Fiction Award and the Alberta Readers' Choice Award.

A word-of-mouth bestseller, Theresa Shea's first book explores female friendships, prenatal testing, infertility, and Down syndrome. Shea tackles a complex moral issue with great sensitivity. This is a must read not only for parents in the Down syndrome community but for all parents, and for anyon
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Brindle & Glass (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a very emotionally difficult book for me to read as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome. However, the author gives a heartwrending and honest view of the pain felt from an initial diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

She also gives a beautiful picture of true friendship, growth and forgiveness.

I do wish; however, that she gave a more realistic view of the hopefullness of living with Down Syndrome in recent years. There is so much negativity shared that is based on outdated research, that paren
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it

When I approached the author to ask if I could read and review this book [cheeky I know] I was surprised to have got a reply to arrange for my copy. I rather it in ebook, so that was arranged and although I had four books urgent ahead of it, I couldn't wait to read it.

hubby went down with the flu
I did.

I finally got around to starting it. As soon as I was on chapter two I was glued. I love a book that tackles hard topics that may get negative feedback as well as positive feedback.
Melodie Muir
Sep 02, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was recommended on a special needs blog (probably NOT a good place) so I was looking very forward to reading it! I want to say I enjoyed it but as the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I found it very emotional and sad! My little man is the greatest gift and best journey I've ever taken and although this book is a very realistic account of receiving a prenatal diagnosis, it was not a great book for me!
Lisa Guenther
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shea really nails the complexity of friendships between women. That mix of jealousy, resentment, and love that exists between some women was brought to life in Marie and Elizabeth. The plots pulled me along like a strong current. There is a well orchestrated plot twist part way through the novel that was very satisfying to me as a reader.

What I liked best about this novel is that Shea addresses complex, tough issues that people don't like to talk about with compassion and sensitivity. She is a b
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. Theresa Shea tackled an extremely complex moral issue with great sensitivity and absolutely NO sense of "preachiness" -- an almost impossible task, I'm sure. The story revolves around three women (Margaret, Elizabeth and Marie), and around the difficult choices they each must make in agonizingly difficult circumstances. I found myself empathizing with all of them, and to me, that's the mark of a very skillful writer. A truly wonderful re ...more
Gail Udell
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was hard to read for a obvious reasons, which is probably the only reason I gave it 4 stars. But it was a realistic story of the past, a very good depiction of the complications and perseverance of a true friendship. Sadly, very realistic of how many of us felt and went through given "the news", though a "decision" for me was never an issue. Won't say any more so as not to give anything away.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very sensitive and moving story about women, friendship and modern choices regarding fertility. Intertwined among these themes is a historical look at attitudes regarding challenged children. My favourite quote from the book is "The more choices we're given, the more selfish we become."
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed this book here: ...more
Carrie Ardoin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall:

Only ten pages into The Unfinished Child, my heart was already in my throat. I could tell this was going to be one powerful read.

The novel tells the story of three women: Marie MacPherson, mother of two and unexpectedly pregnant at age 39; her best friend, Elizabeth, infertile for years despite treatments; and Margaret, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome in 1947. Their experiences finally converge in a shocking conclusion that
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Awesome Book! The author did a great job of researching this book. If you enjoyed The Memory Keeper's Daughter By Edwards, Kim you should definately read this. The decisions all the women had to make were heart wrenching.
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow-This book will be haunting my thoughts for days to come. It was so well written, you felt you really knew the characters. This will be a great for book club discussions.
Karen Bartlett
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Canada, Baby Carolyn is born with Down syndrome in a time when such children were regarded as 'unfinished' children. As such, the recommendation is to place her in an institution, as she could have no possible chance of living a 'normal' life in mainstream society. Carolyn is placed in the home and her parents tell everyone that she has died. They go on to have 2 more children, but Carolyn's mother can never forget her first child, and secretly visits her on a regular basis in the home. T ...more
Ashley Bertilson
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara Strand
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I can't even fully tell you how much I loved this book. This book had me from the first chapter all the way to the end. You have no idea what's happening but when things start clicking together at the end it just feels... perfect. Between the difficulty of pregnancy, have an imperfect child decades ago and now, friendships between women and even abortion- it's just everything you need to read. All at once, right here.

The best part about this is that I hated both Marie and Elizabeth, the two fri
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes when discussing books either in writing or at book clubs I am reminded of some seminars in university in which we students shared our writing with each other and then were expected to sit about critically discussing the bits of paper. Preparation for disertation defences, no doubt. But professors were constantly and obviously annoyed and frustrated by our timidity: “There’s a typo on page 4 . . .”, etc. While there is at least one typo in The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea, I have le ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a sad book that made me depressed.
Follows three different characters, two of whom are best friends. The story shifts in time.
I'd give it five stars except it was super predictable and I figured out by the third chapter what was going to happen.

This book made me do research on downs syndrome which made me even more depressed. Sad that now that testing is available pre-birth, most down syndrome fetuses are aborted.

I would love to read a book from the perspective of somebody with down syn
Ashley Farley
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Unfinished Child is a novel about three women whose lives are intertwined, all of them affected in one way or another by a child with Down syndrome. In 1947, Margaret’s life is changed forever when her first-born is taken from her arms and institutionalized with Down syndrome. In 2002, when Marie finds herself pregnant again at age 39, with two adolescent daughters demanding of her time, she fears a baby would disrupt the family’s equilibrium. Discovering that the baby she is carrying has Down s ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In the 1940s, when you gave birth to a child with a severe disability, it wasn’t uncommon to institutionalize the child. But it still came as a shock to Margaret, after giving birth to a mongoloid child, to be told that it would be of the best interest to her and her family to immediately place the baby where she would be housed with others like her … “the retards, mongoloids and imbeciles.” Although Margaret was reluctant, she signed the baby over to Poplar Grove and trusted that it was the bes ...more
This was an emotional journey through both personal and historical ethics, care and treatment of babies born with Down Syndrome. The story is told from 3 perspectives: Margaret, whose daughter born in the early 1940's with Down Syndrome, who was immediately told to institutionalize her because she would never be accepted into the "real" world. Elizabeth who is nearing 40 and is trying to accept the fact that she will never conceive even though its been a dream since childhood. And Marie, a mothe ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Good Reads suggested I'd like this book. Did I ever ! I couldn't put it down. I was surprised to learn the writer is from Edmonton and the book is set there. Hope she writes more. Most engaging book I've read in quite awhile !

Some quotes that stood out to me

My head is like a bad neighbourhood. I shouldnt be in it alone!

I don't have many opportunities to share my views these days. I'm afraid they're not very popular; maybe I'm old-school, but I think the more choices were given, the more selfish
Gail Amendt
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book that explores the changing attitudes toward people with Down Syndrome. We follow the interconnected stories of three women...Margaret, whose daughter was institutionalized immediately after birth in the 1940's, and who always regretted this decision; Marie, a mother of two adolescent girls who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at 39 with a baby with Down Syndrome, and who must wrestle with the ethical dilemma that genetic testing creates; and Elizabeth, Marie's infer ...more
Literary Mama
Jan 14, 2014 added it
Shelves: fiction
Shea's novel dramatizes the idea that women are, in the sociologist Rayna Rapp’s phrase, “moral pioneers”: the choices offered by reproductive technology require women to figure out their values, as well as how to act on them. Shea’s view of those issues offers welcome nuance and historical context, noting the shift in doctors’ attitudes toward Down syndrome, the shift away from institutionalization, and the way technological options now pervade reproduction. In the world of The Unfinished Child ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well written. Real, believable characters and dialogue. I've never read a novel about this subject before. But, Oh! so sad. A heartbreaking story.

"But now that prenatal testing is available, the majority of fetuses with Down syndrome are terminated...That's why most of the people you see with Down syndrome these days are adults...the intentional eradication of persons with Down syndrome is a form of modern-day eugenics...
compassion is a learned behaviour. So those contact moments, those moments
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I went back and forth 4 or 5 stars and decided 5 because I did like the controversial topic. This is ethics, right vs. wrong, jealousy, secrets, and lots. Its not some love story about down syndrome, if that is one expects. I would imagine parents that have children of Down Syndrome could easily get emotional reading this story. This is a book about some women and the choices they made and the consequences that followed. Life has changed in society in some ways but in some ways-not really. We al ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
As an Albertan I really enjoyed the setting of this book. Friendship, ethics, consequences, and grief are woven into a well written story that is, at times, hard to read because of the raw emotion within it. Life for the characters is difficult, in part because there are no easy solutions to the dilemmas faced. The writer realistically describes these challenges, although I would have liked to see the characters consider their circumstances from a place of values, rather than just a place of emo ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pat Moffitt
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
It was hard to read this book because I am a mother with a grown down syndrome son. I always realized I was lucky to have my child in the mid eighties and not the forties. I had it so much easier than those poor people. I found it really sad to read in this book that 90% of these babies are aborted now. Sometime things that seem to be a tragedy can turn out to be the cause of great joy. Society today could learn a lot from these loving and kind individuals. The book itself was an okay book just ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved the locality of this book and that both big discussion points: infertility and Down's Syndrome were approached with such grace. I was disappointed at the level of coincidence tying the story together and the dialogue was awkward.
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This book showed to me the complete selfish nature of people. I did enjoy that the story took place in Edmonton. If any of my goodreads friends read this book and want to discuss it, I'd love an online book club discussion about it :)
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Theresa Shea's debut novel, The Unfinished Child, was published by Brindle & Glass in the spring of 2013. It was a finalist for the Alberta Book Award in Fiction (2014), the Alberta Readers' Choice Award (2014), and the BookBundlz "Book Pick" Contest (2013).

The Unfinished Child dramatically explores the moral challenges that result from the increased scientific interventions into human reproductio

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