Posted: 11/14/2014 4:19 pm EST HuffingtonPostBooks
At the center of Ann Lewis Hamilton's debut novel, Expecting, is the serious issue of infertility. Surrounding this seriousness, Hamilton skillfully layers funny, slightly absurd, completely plausible events that create a twisted modern tale of family.

Hamilton is an accomplished, writer with a long resume of TV and film credits that include, among others, Haven, The Dead Zone, Grey's Anatomy, Saved, Providence, Party of Five, and thirtysomething. She has won awards and been nominated for others, so, I asked her, why turn to writing a novel?
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"I love writing for TV," Hamilton said. "When it works well, it's this fabulous collaborative environment. If you're stuck, you can run down the hallway and people will help you fix it. At the same time you have a lot of notes and a lot of other people to please. Writing a novel, on the other hand, is a lonely, solitary endeavor."

Hamilton says she found herself talking to herself. A lot. And loudly. She may have freaked out her dog. She definitely freaked out her daughter. "There's something crazed about writing a book. But there's no network interference and there's no one telling you what to do," she added. "And I'll do it again."

Under the best circumstances, the difficulties and challenges of getting pregnant can put a good relationship in peril. For Alan and Laurie, the couple at the center of Expecting, unexpected challenges create unexpected responses. Having had two miscarriages, Laurie and Alan are unsure if they will ever be able to have a child of their own. They visit a fertility clinic where an arrogant doctor promises them a baby. Ignoring the brutish, ill-mannered physician, they go ahead with a fertility treatment. After all, they want a child. On the scheduled day, Alan rushes his sperm over to be inseminated in Laurie. 

All is good and Alan and Laurie become optimistic that they will finally become parents. That's when the clinic calls to let the happy couple know that a disgruntled clinic worker switched Alan's sperm with that of Donor #296. Yes, Laurie is pregnant and the pregnancy has taken. It's just not Alan's baby. His sperm, they are told, was tracked down to a dumpster--which pretty much sums up how Alan feels about his role as father to this baby. He's been tossed out with the trash.

With her history of miscarriages, Laurie has no intention of ending this pregnancy and trying again with Alan's sperm. While Alan is truly crazy about Laurie, he is mostly in shock and remains disconnected from this pregnancy, unable to get past being left out of his child's gene pool. He responds to it with his own version of a breakdown. But even when Alan behaves badly, Hamilton makes sure he remains a sympathetic character.

Things quickly become increasingly tense and bizarrely funny as Laurie tracks down and befriends Donor #296, Jack, a directionless UCLA student who can't figure out a major and who sold his sperm to pay off a fraternity debt. Jack's response is to man-up, and rise to the occasion, which only adds to the absurd comedy, as he's not needed. Still, as he embraces his imagined and real version of fatherhood, he finally grows up. Like his sperm inside Laurie, Jack comes of age in Expecting.

And while Alan remains ambivalent about his role as father to Laurie's child, every other person who is remotely connected to Jack or Laurie or Alan instantly claims their special relationship with this child to be, making Expecting even more pleasantly absurd. 

"One of the things I loved about writing Expecting is that it's a debate what you would do if you were the mom or the dad or the donor," Hamilton said. "There are so many places where the characters could say no, but they don't."

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It wasn't inevitable that Hamilton became a writer, but she does claim to have been raised in a house filled with typewriters in a town where her grandfather was the editor of the local newspaper, her father a reporter, and her mother the society page writer. Her goal growing up her goal was to write and draw for MAD magazine.

Moving forward, Hamilton is working on a novel about a woman whose mother dies, "But funny," she said. "I want to look at what it's like to lose a mother in an odd, unpredictable way."

Her enthusiasm for all forms and all genres is infectious. "One of the things that I love about being a writer," she said, "is that the older you get the better you get." 

Which is why, I can't wait for her next novel.




 
 
At 10 a.m. on Veterans Day, shopping malls and retail stores across the United States will open their doors to eager shoppers who will be using their the day off from work to track down Veterans Day discounts offered to honor those who have served honorably in our nation's military branches.

On the same morning, at precisely 11 a.m., in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, a wreath will be placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns to honor those same veterans. Originally observed to commemorate the end of World War I and the signing of the Armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, Veterans Day evolved to honor all our military veterans. 
AThe expansion of the holiday was made necessary because World War I, the war to end all wars, wasn't. Given the technological advances of modern weapons, it is almost certain that the next war to end all wars will most likely end everything else, too.

So, until we either end wars, or wars end us, the U.S. will continue to have a large and powerful military. Yet, for all its size and power and cost, it has become far too isolated from most communities. Our wars have become invisible, fought by a tiny percentage of our population, who come from a shrinking demographic, and who are stationed at fewer bases in fewer areas of our nation. We are not safer, nor are our elected leaders less likely to send our military into wars of choice, just because we don't see them.

What happens to the men and women in uniform is all of our responsibility. They go where they are asked (told really), sent by leaders we elect and funded by dollars we contribute. Even if we are wary of their missions, even if we oppose their drain on our national budget, we must never avoid them.
Military men and women should be visible everywhere, military bases should be part of every community. We should all interact with military families. High school students and their families should not have the option to opt out of receiving mail from our nation's military branches. It's simply too easy for too many of us to ignore the reality of our military and those who sign up to serve.

We should be having an open and ongoing debate about the role of our military and not the drone of sound bites we substitute for substance. The very troubling number of suicides among those who have served, the loss of family members, the shameful staggering statistic of homeless veterans (two words that should never, ever be linked), the ongoing medical challenges, the toll that deployment takes on military families back home -- we all share the responsibility to address these issues.

Parades for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, sales at the mall, and antiwar protests should not be the only times we think about our military.

Accepting the fact that we have a military is not an endorsement of war, it is an endorsement of reality. And it's also the only way to avoid the reckless use of our military. And isn't that the best way to honor the men and women who serve?


Follow Elan Barnehama on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ElanBarnehama
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