May Cause Love by Kassi Underwood
Published by HarperCollins, 338 pages, $27
Tormented for years after an abortion, Kassi Underwood undertakes a fascinating quest as she seeks a way to deal with the guilt and grief from the decision she made as a 19-year-old college student. This memoir from a current Harvard Divinity School student begins when Kassi’s boyfriend Will-B enlists in the military and she gets pregnant by the unstable, drug-using Noah. Kassi, vibrant but chaotic and drinking too much, terms the experience an “eggnancy” and chooses to have an abortion. Kassi is comforted by Will-B, and she follows Noah, who later becomes a dad and gives his baby their briefly considered name of Jade, which feels like a further pinch of punishment. Feeling like Jade’s distant symbolic mother, she follows her online and then seeks out programs to stretch her soul toward forgiveness and acceptance. Trying anything for relief, she explores Buddhist, Jewish and Catholic workshops and healing rituals. They are mystical and exotic, and match Kassi’s own wildness. Soon, the name “water baby” becomes a tolerable way to frame what she’s lost.
Her story reads like a novel, including her romantic complexities, as both Will-B and Noah remain in her rocky, colorful life. This happens alongside her roiling positions on the abortion, including sorrow, defiance and self-forgiveness. One outing, for suffering pro-choice survivors, turns out to be a pro-life crowd, but Kassi eventually finds a simpatico group called pro-voice that acknowledges the commonalities among all women who’ve had abortions, as well as their male partners. Often irreverent and cheerful, Kassi’s personal journey eventually blends with the political and, most meaningfully, the spiritual, leading to a surprising destination. ◆
From page 119: I used to brace myself never to apologize for my abortion, protecting my Sorry against anyone who might try to capture it and put it in a jar and bring it to the Sorry Laboratory to pick apart and misinterpret. But this apology was mine. We don’t apologize just to be forgiven. We apologize to forgive ourselves.