Read Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly Online


Beth Ann Fennelly, writing to a newly pregnant friend, goes beyond the nuts and bolts or sentimentality of other parenting literature, in letters that range in tone from serious to sisterly, from lighthearted to downright funny. Some answer specific questions; others muse about the identity shift a woman encounters when she enters Mommyland. This book invites all mothers tBeth Ann Fennelly, writing to a newly pregnant friend, goes beyond the nuts and bolts or sentimentality of other parenting literature, in letters that range in tone from serious to sisterly, from lighthearted to downright funny. Some answer specific questions; others muse about the identity shift a woman encounters when she enters Mommyland. This book invites all mothers to join the grand circle of giving and receiving advice about children....

Title : Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393329780
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother Reviews

  • Gail
    2019-04-27 14:49

    What a beautiful, beautiful collection of letters this was! Reading it, I couldn't help but think two things: 1) We'd all be so lucky to have a poet for a friend, one who could pen us the most gorgeous sentences to look forward to in the mail such as these and 2) no one writes eloquent letters like this anymore, not in this Internet-driven, 140-character-favoring society we now live in.What I loved most is how the letters between Beth Ann (a University of Mississippi English professor and mother of a toddler) and one of her former students, Kathleen (pregnant at the time the letters were written) were so moving and honest and, somehow, ever-so reassuring. And while it's so easy for other parents to dole out advice to a mother-to-be with a side of cynicism or sarcasm, Beth Ann shies away from that — acknowledging the hardships of parenthood but letting her warm thoughts for what she's gained in becoming a mother overshadow all of the struggles that come with the role. Case in point, this passage: "When sharing your news, you might come across some disgruntled parent-folk. You know, the kind who snort and say ruefully, "If there was anyplace you want to travel to, go now." Don't let them squelch your joy, dear K: these are the kind of people who never went anywhere *before* they had babies either."And while I'm sharing, another gem I loved so much (among so many to be found in this slim collection): "The second thing I want to pass on is a piece of advice I need to take myself, which is this: Accept mediocrity. Be underwhelming. You can't do everything, so choose some things to sacrifice, and absolve yourself from guilt. It may be that you can raise a child and write a dissertation——but have the ugliest lawn on the block. And that's okay. Let someone else win "Lawn of the Month"——someone with a nanny.Lastly, this book would make SUCH a wonderful gift for a mother-to-be (or a mama who's just had a baby and is feeling overwhelmed). I know for sure it's going to be my go-to gift for any future mamas in my life!

  • catharine
    2019-05-03 10:40

    This book is extremely sentimental. And I hate sentimentalism, especially about how children are magical to be around. I find books that focus on the "specialness" of being a mother to be trite and cloying, not to mention unrealistic. But somehow, this one got through my thorny skeptical shell and was actually charming, heartfelt, and very satisfying to read. Especially: "You are a warrior. You are a warrior, and for your whole life your body has been warming up for this great fight. These last months have been consumed with training everything inside you, all of the hormones and the loosening of the joints have been in preparation for this, and you are ready. You know, more or less, the day, the place, of your battle, and you will meet it because you are destined for it, it is the greates challenge your body will ever know. have taken the loved part of your loved man deep inside and you ahve forged this creature from star-stuff and now you will battle to set it free. You are strong than you know. You will split open your body to free the tiny god who will be caught and held up like a hero. You are the hero. No one but you can do it. ...Remember this when the contraction comes and your whole belly tightens like a shell about to be craked. All the muscles in your belly, muscles you don't remember having, will grow rigid and fused like the carapace of the ornate box turtle. After some moments, it will pass, your muscles unclench, and again your flesh will feel like a taut sail propelled by more wind than it can take without tearing, but still your flesh Then you know it won't be long until your ordinary, miraculous flesh, your warrior body will be victorious."

  • nicole
    2019-05-19 16:38

    Beautiful meditation on motherhood as told in letters from one poet to her former student.This is exactly the sort of pregnancy book I’ve been looking for as an expectant mother. Fennelly gets it, the overwhelming nature of the fear and the dreams, but addresses it from the lovely vantage point of someone on the shore with one toe still dipped in. Her writing is so beautiful it made me consider picking up some of her poetry, even though I came to this book for the content rather than the style. I loved how she discussed her own experiences, her miscarriage, and her toddler’s delightful antics.Pre-pregnancy I’d often hear the remark to read now, because when babies would come along there’s be no time. That always made me so sad, as reading is breathing for me – a stretch of time without it always leaves me feeling congested and muddled. I loved this advice so much: “How often I have chosen a book at random and found in it an answer I didn’t realize I was seeking. As if great books are vitamins that sense our deficiencies. Reading educates the emotions, and reading informs our decision making, for we learn through the experiences of others as well as our own. So reading is one of those things that seems selfish but, in the end, makes us better mothers.”

  • Matthew
    2019-04-27 13:43

    Whew, it's a relief to say this book of letters is amazing. Because there were so many ways it could have gone wrong: if it were too sappy I (perhaps because I'm male and am in so many ways disconnected from the emotions of motherhood) would have been bored, if it were too trivial (by simply relaying how she spent her day each day) I would have been reminded of how much I disliked Marianne Moore's book of letters, if were too 'academic' then it wouldn't have felt like a genuine exchange between two actual friends, and if it was too 'polite' then it would have made more sense to just read a straightforward textbook on how to handle pregnancy. Fortunately, the book was everything I was hoping it would be. It was smart, authentic, playful, warm, informational, fascinating. And you certainly don't have to be pregnant, or even female, to access the worth of each of these letters.A couple other reviewers dropped their star rating because they called the author pretentious. Hmm, well that's tough to say having not seen the other side of the exchange. Perhaps the letters respond to K's questions more than we realize -- or perhaps the letters are somewhat edited(?) of more personal content? Either way I'm not too bothered -- clearly the student/younger woman was looking for the mentorship of someone wiser. If that ended up making it more of a monologue than a dialogue than so be it, what Fennelly shares is worth the read.

  • Jacqueline
    2019-05-13 17:53

    **UPDATE: Just reread this for inspiration during my current pregnancy. Still really loved it.**Maybe it's just because I'm pregnant, but I LOVED this book. The author is a poet, and the book is composed of letters she wrote to a younger friend (actually a former student of hers) who was pregnant and asked for advice on pregnancy and motherhood. Her poetic leanings come through in each letter as she frankly but lyrically writes about so many aspects of expecting and raising a baby. I underlined countless passages that were either too wise or too beautiful for me to feel okay with forgetting. This would be a superb gift for anyone who loves literature and is pregnant or has a young child. I'm sure I'll be giving it a reread at some point in the near future.

  • Tracy Keck
    2019-04-27 10:54

    I received this book from a friend, and that feels like the only appropriate way to obtain this book--gifted from another woman. Now I can't wait to pass it on to the next soon-to-be-mama in my life. The letters from the author are equal parts amusing, moving, terrifying, and empowering. She offers the perfect balance of practical counsel and wise words of love. Countless passages led to me thinking, "That was just what I needed to hear." The perfect book to read during pregnancy, especially your first.

  • Rachael
    2019-05-07 13:24

    absolutely gorgeous. Possibly my favorite mom-book. Beautiful language paired with an honest, hopeful outlook. Tastes of southern influence, sassy womanhood, joyful mothering, and straight up thoughtful writing.

  • Kate
    2019-05-15 16:34

    I really enjoyed this book as a way to ponder and consider the emotional side of pregnancy, and it read quickly and easily. Glad I read it!

  • Meish
    2019-05-04 14:43

    A beautiful collection of letters that speak to pregnancy, motherhood, changing identity, and our hopes and fears on raising children. These letters are serious and lighthearted, contemplative and simply funny, nostalgic and hopeful. Of course, being written by a poet, these letters are just lovely to read. But loveliest of all is the warmth of friendship emanating throughout.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-11 13:39

    This was the book about motherhood I have been looking for my whole pregnancy. Thanks so much to Denise for finding and recommending it. This book is a series of letters from 2004 from poet and Ole Miss professor Beth Ann Fennelly to her friend and former student Kathleen. Kathleen is living in Alaska, far from her Georgia friends and family and is expecting her first child. Beth Ann writes not a how-to-parenting guide or an overtly sentimental treatise on the joys of mothering, but an alternating humorous, serious, and beautiful look at how motherhood changes each woman. There is so much wonderful and comforting knowledge in this book. One of my favorite letters was Beth Ann encouraging Kathleen to keep reading for pleasure herself as studies have shown that children develop into readers themselves when (1) children grow up in a “print-rich” environment (i.e., a home with lots of books) and (2) children see their caregivers reading for themselves (not, surprisingly, when parents just encourage children to read and/or read to them at bedtime). Another beautiful letter was Beth Ann advising Kathleen that childbirth is indeed painful (and not to let anyone tell her that labor pains are simply uncomfortable), but women’s bodies are warriors and heroes that are beautifully designed to facilitate the miracle of birth. Overall I highly recommend this book for any mother, even if your children are no longer infants as it will reconnect you with that special time of pregnancy and birth. It certainly will be my go-to gift for baby showers from now on.

  • Kristen
    2019-05-13 16:36

    "With books I practiced escapism, but it is also books that, in the end, led me back to my life. While reading can be deeply narcotic, it is also a drug that heals. For reading lifts us out of ourselves, and when we're returned, we're more empathetic, more capacious, wiser. I think reading can be a moral act." One of my favorite passages from this collection of letters from one friend to another as she prepares to have her first child. It really hit its stride in its last 50 pages. It's a testament to friendship, major life changes, and reading, and fittingly was given to me by a friend. Here's one other passage that stayed with me, from the author's perspective as writer: "I educated my soul through reading. I played with point-of-view, imagining other characters in the story, like my parents. Through this, I began to understand them, which softened me a little. As time went on I learned how events create plot, so when I felt that because my father had made a mess of his life I was bound to make a mess of mine or marry someone who'd mess it up for me -- well, eventually I had to admit this plot lacked the "inevitability" of a thoughtfully designed story. I understood at last I really could choose my own ending."Strangely, one of the largest takeaways for me from this book was the hope that if I have a child, I hope they love reading as much as I do.

  • Caitlin
    2019-05-21 15:24

    I find this book a bit is almost like it was written for me. The narrator is a professor grappling with her extremely flexible, highly demanding, self-motivated work schedule and raising a toddler. Her struggles with finding her professional self, justifying her work time without feeling guilty, trying to appreciate her daughter, trying to be a good parent, and dealing with everyone's perceptions of the above is so eerily similar to my life it freaked me out.On the down side - I do not know much about poetry, and sometimes Fennelly was a bit too poetic for my taste. She also tended to ramble a bit about odd things that required little to no rambling. She got a bit too personal for me, too. Despite those small criticisms overall, this was a FANTASTIC book. Fennelley shares facts and details about pregnancy from literary and academic angles, interspersed between her personal experiences and beautiful narrative. The result is a pleasant blend of information and feel-good advice. She really understands the fear and expectation surrounding pregnancy as well as the depth and complexity of a mother's love for her children.Since I am pregnant and have I small child, I found this the perfect book. The author's musings about both parenthood and pregnancy allowed me to relate to this text on a deep level.

  • Stefanie
    2019-05-12 10:53

    I thought that this book was fantastic. I received it as a baby shower gift and was pleasantly surprised as I read through the letters. The anecdotes were beautiful. They really capture the experience that come with mothering a child for the first time - the overwhelming love and joy, the newness of exploring everything with them, sometimes partnered with an inevitable guilt or (dare I say) slight resentment. Yes, there are negative emotions involved! But everything has its ups and downs. The writing is very honest and probably a little forward-thinking for some, but I highly recommend it to mothers-to-be, young mothers, or even more "experienced" mothers. :)I had only two problems with it - one, as a single mother, I was made painfully aware of the intimacy I'm missing by not being able to share this with a partner. I was often jealous of the ease that seems to come with having a husband involved. But that's personal. The second, which wasn't a big issue for me, is that her writing was a little bit contrived and elaborate at times. Some of the other reviews touch on this, and I don't entirely disagree. But largely, I enjoyed reading this, and it will be a permanent installation on my shelf.

  • Jill
    2019-05-11 10:39

    Had I not already known Fennelly is a poet, I could have ascertained it from the incisiveness of her unique, visually sumptuous metaphors and allusions. She wrote this group of letters to a former student of hers, so the tone is affectionately peer-to-peer, with an added touch of the mentor. (Fennelly's former student/friend is pregnant with her first child; Fennelly writes to her like an older sister, having been there/done that with her own first child.) Because these stream-of-consciousness letters were never originally intended for publication, they are very intimate and, therefore, ultimately brave because Fennelly reveals a lot of things that the world at large still finds taboo about motherhood (the eroticism of nursing, the desire to have a flirtatious weekend away amongst fellow writers, the jealousy a mother feels when a daughter goes through a "daddy's girl" phase). This is a great gift idea for expectant mothers who have an intellectual or literary bent; it's also just a beautiful collection of poetic prose, with sentences and descriptions that stop a reader in her tracks with their acuity and inventiveness. 4.5 stars (half a star off for occasionally annoying 40-something narcissism, but so what...the book is gorgeous).

  • Sonya Feher
    2019-05-21 16:52

    I have a friend who is in the first trimester of her pregnancy. I wish I had written her these letters. Instead, I’ve ordered her Great with Child. Fennelly’s letters to a former student turned friend contain practical advice, poetic description, and an introspection that teems with the need to be honest with herself and her friend. It’s so easy to give “This is how I did it" instruction and that is not at all what this book does. Great with Child recognizes that parenthood is not one size fits all nor is it always joyful or easy. It also conveys how sacred a journey motherhood is while quoting parenting studies and great literature alike. In describing her first separation from her daughter after the delivery, Fennelly writes, “She was my second nature. I was plural, two heads, four arms, four legs, two hearts pumping blood through their eight chambers. Now she was outside of me and never would be inside of me again, would be spirited father and farther away from my body, already she’d been wheeled out of sight by the nurses, and my double heart was cleaved, cleaved and inadequate” (166). I like reading about motherhood from a woman who can write (and feel) like that.

  • Teresa Raetz
    2019-04-24 15:43

    This book gets a lot more stars than I gave it so obviously a lot people like it. And there are things in it to like. I was excited to read this book because I heard the author, a poet who teaches at the Ole Miss, on NPR's Fresh Air. She was funny, warm, and has written some great poetry. To bad this person wasn't always present in these letters. There are funny and warm moments full of insight about motherhood and you get those when the author relaxes and gets out of her own way. But unfortunately a lot of the letters are so pretentious and selfish that they made me want to throw the book across the room. I refuse to believe these are the actual, unedited letters she wrote to this young friend, ostensibly to give her advice during her pregnancy. If they are that, she is the most self-involved letter writer ever. She never asks this young, scared woman who is thousands of miles from family a single question about herself. There are several cringe-worthy moments -- the reference to how her husband's penis looks -- and so many others that seem to be written by someone trying to write the way she thinks a poet should write.

  • Mandy Fernandez
    2019-04-27 11:35

    This book is nothing but letters from one friend to another. There are no chapters, no plots. It's just heartfelt words from one young mother to another mother-to-be as she grows in her pregnancy. Even though some letters are just a paragraph of silliness or five pages about a miscarriage, the overall book says so much. It's not one you can probably read (or want to) in one sitting but it's the kind of book you can take several weeks to enjoy, like I did. Or share with a friend or give as a gift. I like how the author shared her personal experiences, pain and loss, joy and triumph, fears and kudos about being a good parent and more. She was forthright without being preachy and I loved how she put lots of external insights, quotes, poets and scientific observations in her letters to her friend. I'd highly recommend this to moms of young children and to those who will become moms. I'm definitely passing this on to a friend who will appreciate it just as I appreciate the written letter over a Facebook status in today's tech-hungry world.

  • Agnes
    2019-05-14 17:39

    I am at a loss for words to describe how much I loved this book, which I suppose is to be expected after reading something so beautifully written. A collection of letters written by a former Knox poetry professor to her former student who is pregnant, the book is the most heartfelt and honest expression of motherhood that I have ever read. Admittedly, I don't read enough poetry or even beautiful prose on a regular basis, so that may be part of the reason why I was continually astounded at how incredibly well the author could describe the funny, frightening, confusing and incredibly deep feelings that come with this territory. I would recommend this to anyone who is a parent, considering becoming a parent, or who wonders at why anyone would ever want to become a parent. Definitely best for pregnant women - I think the high hormone levels probably help you appreciate it even more. A beautiful, funny, sad, rich book.Also, here's the official public announcement (and your reward for reading all the way through my gushing review): Our baby is due July 16!

  • martha
    2019-05-05 15:38

    A solid 4.5. I feel such antipathy toward the cult of saccharine motherhood and pregnancy message boards with their world of acronyms, but I also don't want to hear all the jokey cartoonish stuff about how having kids is a chaotic nightmare lol good luck.This was a really enjoyable look at pregnancy and early parenthood in a way that avoided both cliches. It felt very honest and real; a warm-voiced epistolary version of the more academic Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution.My favorite thing was how much Fennelly, as a poet, talks about the need to maintain a separate inner life, to remain creative and not let the role of parent devour those pieces of yourself.I also marked a ton of quotes I really liked, for their wisdom or their wording, which is always a sign of a keeper.

  • Sue
    2019-05-14 11:33

    This series of letters from a poet and professor who is a mother of a 3-year old to a pregnant former student are sweet. Some sadness, hilarity, and just honest truth comes through in the letters, which cover everything from the poignancy of her own child outgrowing phases so quickly to the nitty gritty of the hospital to marital realities before, during, and after a baby. I read this book after reading about it on Cup of Jo , who recommends it as an antidote to the horror stories that other women tell pregnant women. It is that, for sure. Although there are sad parts, it is not a source for horror stories and all the "What to Expect" guilt. It is a comforting read that reminds pregnant ladies that they have something to look forward to, and to enjoy the pregnancy. Thank goodness for that!

  • cara
    2019-05-16 10:50

    i'd give this one 3.5 stars if that were an option, so i'm rounding up. there were some really beautiful words and interesting topics in this book. her writing style was a little too poetic for me. she is a poet, so it's to be just seemed a little too flowery and pretentious to me at is one of my favorite parts..."Women aren't normally encouraged to provide themselves time and resources, especially if doing so requires sacrifices from others. But it's a skill we need to practice."agreed, BA. agreed.and one more gem..."Please don't feel pressure to do as I did. There are too many people out there who think their way is the right way, which it may be - and their way is the only way, which it is not. If there's one thing I can say for certain about motherhood, it's that it is a transformation which is deeply individual."yep.

  • Jen
    2019-05-09 14:53

    This is a great collection of letters containing more than parenting/pregnancy advice, but life advice.some of my favorite quotes from this book...Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue...they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything is difficult and everything is serious. -Rilke, pg 72 great with child (From Letters to a young poet)Goethe- The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabitied garden. pg 135I believe that understanding and articulating our suffering helps us understand and articulate our joy. pg 158

  • Emilia P
    2019-05-03 15:41

    Thank you Kelsey Keyes! You wonderful young mother you! Kelsey sweetly sent me this book immediately after I told her I was expecting, and it got me through the second part of the first trimester, which hey guys, it's a really emotional time! Equal parts highbrow poetics and anecdotes and pulling undigested bits of floss out of your toddler's butt, I careened through the ups and downs of parenthood, spousal love, pregnancy and labor fears, and hmmm just all of that good gushy stuff. And a realllly really good poetic rebuttal to all the male poets of the world that I think I'll eventually have framed or something. :) Thank you, Kelsey, thank you Beth Ann, thank you wise and thoughtful mommies and women everywhere. Just, so much.

  • Evanston PublicLibrary
    2019-05-12 12:30

    Amid the plethora of pregnancy books, this is a stand-out. In letters to a pregnant former student (whose own mother had died and who was living in Alaska, far from friends and family), poetry professor Fennelly lovingly commiserates and encourages her friend, describing the joys, frustrations and excitement of being a first-time mom. Beautifully written, poignant and funny. It was given to me when I was pregnant with my first child and was the only pregnancy book I actually read, cover-to-cover. It has become my go-to gift for baby showers.(Heather N., Readers' Services)

  • Cassie
    2019-05-17 18:36

    I can't quite explain how wonderful this book is, but it resonates so deeply for me. In a way, I wish I read it earlier, perhaps while pregnant, but it somehow seems that it came to me at just the right moment. I feel like Beth Ann was writing to me, directly. I can relate to the fears, joy, worries, sorrows, and beautiful memories of pregnancy and motherhood. I will treasure these words, and give this book as a gift to friends who become "great with child".

  • Olivia
    2019-05-09 14:33

    A quick, mostly pleasant read. I was expecting to like it a lot more though! I was put off by the author's affected "old and wise" tone (she was 33 when she wrote this!) and by a few cringe-worthy overwritten moments. Still, there are some beautiful reflections in here, and the calm vibe of the book is a nice change from the more "how to" pregnancy / parenting guides.

  • Gaelyn
    2019-04-26 10:35

    This book was beautiful and such a quick and enjoyable read. I loved it & will read it again. Perfect gift for a new mom (probably my go to at baby showers from now on), great for reading in those early days of mother hood when its all so fresh and overwhelmingly beautiful.

  • Dana
    2019-05-24 17:46

    What a wonderful book! A prayer, a celebration, a witness to birth and motherhood, art and life.

  • Kim
    2019-05-16 18:37

    Her writing about miscarriages was my favorite part.

  • Sidnie Davis
    2019-05-03 10:26

    Ugh. Parts of this were...fine, and parts were so sanctimonious and ridiculous that I wanted to hurl it across the room along with "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (but that's a whole other story). The author reminds me of someone you'd be Facebook friends with who would write the most self-congratulatory, saccharine posts on motherhood and everything else that flits through their syrupy brain. You know the type - you are constantly on the verge of "un-friending" them but can't bring yourself to do it because having dramatic readings aloud of their musings to your friends and significant other is just too fun. Skip it, and certainly don't do as the book says and buy this for anyone's baby shower. Trust me, your friend would way rather have the Pampers.