Eric D. Goodman is the author of six books, including WRECKS AND RUINS (Loyola University's Apprentice House Press, 2022), THE COLOR OF JADEITE (Loyola’s Apprentice House Press, 2020), SETTING THE FAMILY FREE (Apprentice House, 2019), WOMB: A NOVEL IN UTERO (Merge Publishing, 2017), TRACKS: A NOVEL IN STORIES (Atticus Books, 2011) and FLIGHTLESS GOOSE (Writer’s Lair Books, 2008).
Born in San Jose, California, Eric has lived in the Maryland for the past 20 years. More than 100 of his short stories, articles, and travel stories have been published in journals, magazines, and periodicals. He is co-founder of the Lit & Art Reading Series, Baltimore’s longest-running literary salon. Learn more about Eric and his writing:
Womb’s main character offers such a fresh approach to point of view that it kept me turning pages throughout the novel to see what this tiny narrator was going to say next. Safely sheltered inside his mother, this unborn fetus knows what’s happening in the outside world, especially concerning his parents, who have a lot of problems. I came to the novel expecting to take a leap of faith about this little narrator, but Goodman explains his abilities so skillfully, I never felt the need to question him. Or if I did have a question, such as how the narrator could relate appearances and actions that he obviously couldn’t see, Goodman anticipates the question and answers it immediately: the narrator “sees” the outside world through his mother’s ideas that are passed on to him. He refines the vision based on what he hears and what he knows from being connected to the collective consciousness.
This connection with the collective consciousness is one of the most fascinating parts of the book. The narrator explains that through this connection, he has an understanding of things everyone knows: a history of the universe, good and evil, right and wrong. He knows great literature and great art, but not what was created yesterday. He knows locations such as the Taj Mahal and what it feels like to love and lose. He knows all this now, but once he enters the outside world and focuses much of his brain on learning skills to cope in that world, he’ll lose a lot of this knowledge.
The narrator is confident he can help solve his parents’ problems if only he can be born soon enough. The question is whether he’ll be born in time or maybe even born at all, since his mother thinks he may be one of the problems. Goodman has created a challenging situation for everyone in this small family and an innovative narrator to relate it. I couldn’t help cheering for this tiny warrior.
“Suspension” of disbelief takes on a whole new meaning with this book. Eric D. Goodman’s Womb: a novel in utero is one of the most unusual books I’ve read. I mean that in a good way. The main story involves the parents of the unborn narrator, and they go through enough drama to make for a good soap opera season. But seen through the mind of the narrator in utero, everything is put through a unique filter. Add to the drama of the outside world some of the unexpected surprises inside the womb, too. At the heart of it all is the wise voice of the main character, who wants to share his advice to help mankind. I don’t think it’s revealing too much to say that the advice is a good dose of medicine for just about everyone: that we should stop racing to tomorrow and try to find the joy in the moment. One way to do that is to read this stimulating book.
Have you wondered if you were being discrete enough around a nearby fetus? Read Eric Goodman's new book WOMB. He worked on it 10+ years, so there is no reason to assume or find a connection to Ian McEwan's book Nutshell.
We all know at least one unreliable narrator, in person: Someone who claims to be the best, always, a person who lies even about the smallest thing, a clownish person who jokes and japes even about serious things.
You might not want to believe that a dividing zygote has a mind, but you know that the dividing cells that will make a brain, a mind, are there from the beginning. Manny, the baby who relates WOMB, and is a “rational Being” (as Tristram Shandy said about himself in 1759) has a mind, and uses it to relate what happens to himself, his mother and father until shortly after his birth.
Who could be more reliable than someone who was there, from the very first moment? Why shouldn’t a fetus –a very smart and observent one -- be more or at least as reliable as Huckleberry Finn, or M., in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time? If you are willing to say okay, let’s hear what Manny thinks, then enjoy all he does say. He’s a very observant, and close-listening fetus!
WOMB challenges us to have a “don’t know mind” (as Zen Buddhists cultivate) by allowing ourselves to feel the simplest profound things. To exalt in make-believe as we did as small children, to be willing to believe we know a lot more important things than reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic. The West African hero Sunjata, who actually lived, was given a mythic back story by griots (story-tellers), including one that Sunjata could come out of his mother’s womb to play, before being actually born! Plato would be very pleased with this book; it was he, using the character Socrates, who argued that the human soul already knows everything because it existed before birth, and knowledge must simply be recollected.
What is your earliest memory? A few of us seem to remember glimpses of our lives when we are younger than one. Isn’t it possible that if we let go of inhibitions about what scientists say is possible that we can believe what Eric Goodman recounts here is “memory”? Might we not recognize the feel of warm bath water, the slickness of baby oil, the sound of drums and grandfather clocks and remember the time before we are born?
Goodman presents the reader with enough sensory input about the experience of living in a womb waiting to be born to convince us that it just might be true. We know that fetuses can hear, and respond to sounds and voices. They can feel touch several layers away! Let us give Manny the benefit of the doubt that he can also “see”, and enjoy the lively and tender nine months he spends in utero, in WOMB.
I was given a copy of this book for an honest review.
Womb: A Novel in Utero by Eric D. Goodman is an adult fiction book told from the perspective of an unborn child. Penny wasn’t ready to be a mother. Her life wasn’t where she expected it to be and the circumstances of her pregnancy were also unplanned and completely unexpected. Ignoring the life growing inside her and terrified of confessing the truth of her pregnancy to her husband Jack, Penny’s guilt and anxiety writhe inside her as does the fetus within.
Our narrator feels every bump in the road, every twist and turn. He can feel his mother’s emotions and intuit the world around her. Memories are passed between mother and son and access to the collective unconsciousness allows our narrator to ruminate about life and all it’s hurdles.
Will Jack and Penny be able to overcome their differences and embrace an unexpected future? And what can a fetus do when it’s very existence is threatened?
This is the second book I’ve read by Goodman, Tracks: A Novel in Stories being the first. Goodman has a knack for pace and writing that is readable and relatable. His books are a breeze to get through and something about the writing just sucks you in.
When I first picked up Womb, I was a bit skeptical because where can a story go when it’s narrator is literally in a void–unable to communicate, let alone act upon the world it inhabits. But the way Goodman sets up our narrator, he can do just that. Yes, he is an outside observer but sometimes those are the best narrators. Through the baby’s eyes we get to see an everyday couple go through ups and downs.
I just happen to be pregnant while reading this book, which I think gave me a whole different perspective on it. I know how my baby is growing and what is happening, so it was interesting to see the narrator grow in these same stages throughout. It also makes you think about the bond a mother and child form, even before the baby is born.
I will say, that I was more wrapped into the story itself rather than the narrators musings about life. At times our fetus was a little too philosophical for me, which was a little hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, some very poignant thoughts and ideas but from the perspective of a fetus is was sometimes hard to get my head around.
Overall, this was a quick read with a unique narration that kept me interested throughout. This one gets 4 stars from me.
This novel takes a very unique point of view, as the narrator is a fetus in the womb of Penny, a thirty-something who is married to Jack. Both are unfulfilled in their aspirations, and both seem ambivalent about becoming parents. Penny even more so because of details that are revealed as the book moves on. The narrator possesses all knowledge; this is a tribute to Plato who felt that when our souls dwelt among the forms, they had absolute knowledge of all things. After we are born, then we forget. When we learn something, we actually “remember” what we already knew. For Plato, the cycle of births and deaths helps us accumulate knowledge so we can someday break the cycle of reincarnation. So the premise is actually a couple of thousand years old, as are the problems facing Jack and Penny. Being part of a couple sometimes requires extreme patience and understanding, but it always has. It did, however, take me a few chapters to get used to the narrator in utero. The story itself is timely and gripping. The novel explores contemporary realities of couples today as they try to balance work, life, money, and career aspirations, sometimes realizing the simple fact that what they have right now might be all they are getting, and they need to learn to embrace it, and appreciate it. I found the book to be a good read, and the characters sympathetic and relevant. Once in a while, though, the narrator seemed a bit too sophisticated, and occasionally a bit preachy. However, the story is a good one, and the novel is worth a read. I found myself thinking about the characters after I finished the book, and that alone speaks for itself.
Joseph Zeppetello, author of Daring to Eat a Peach, a novel
Womb: a novel in utero is an inspiring work of fiction. Even though the narrator of the book hasn’t even been born yet, he shows the reader what it means to be alive. In a creative and innovative way, Goodman has the narrator not only express his own experiences and views, but also tap into his mother’s emotions, experiences, and situations. Being able to experience the things in his mom’s life along with her takes the reader into the outside world, but as a spectator with limited puppet strings, still inside the womb while trying to influence and comment on the outside goings on. It’s a book I won’t soon forget, and highly recommended.
Goodman begins his story around the belief that people are born with “common knowledge.” In other words, they already have a certain understanding, and the longer they live, the more they learn this enlightenment fades. His main character is an embryo that wants to live in spite of his mother’s complicated situation. She considers aborting her fetus to save her marriage. The fetus shares with readers his mission is to help his mother. Along the way, readers learn the fetus is able to hear sounds outside his mother’s womb and can understand some her thoughts. Readers also learn what it is like inside the womb from this character’s perspective.
Though the story may at first seem to center around whether abortion is right or wrong, it actually is more about the difficulty and reality of the human condition, and about the difficulty of making choices. People hurt one another and make mistakes. They are far from perfect and we need to keep that in mind, especially with those we love and care about. WOMB reminds readers that there are times when loved ones have made less than respectable choices. It doesn’t make them unlovable or bad though, especially if they weren’t trying to. It makes them human. Ideally, people will learn from each choice.
In Goodman’s WOMB, a couple is faced with a messy situation due to the wife’s choice, which breaks a sacred promise. The husband must then make a choice of whether to stay in his marriage or not. Besides their marriage being in crisis due to a choice, another crisis exists. Each partner has an important, difficult choice to make that will affect them and another. The wife must decide whether to allow her baby to live or not. Interestingly, this baby will help her eventually if allowed to, yet the wife doesn’t know this. Difficult decisions without full knowledge and a broken sacred promise complicate the matter. Readers are asked to realize the only choice is to look at others with empathy and with understanding.
A provocative and thoughtful read that will cause reflection. Readers who like contemplating life and who also look beyond the surface of hot topics and the human condition will enjoy WOMB. Those who just like a good story will enjoy WOMB too however.