Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Unfit by Lara Cleveland Torgesen

UnfitUnfit by Lara Cleveland Torgesen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley. I was intrigued to read this novel about a survivor of the forced sterilization program in North Carolina. Forced sterilization, typically of poor women labeled by social workers or doctors as "promiscuous" or "feeble-minded," is certainly a terrible and shameful chapter in our nation's history. The program continued in NC into the late 1960s, long after other states had abandoned such practices after the horrors of the Nazi eugenics program were revealed at the end of World War II.

So I thought this was a promising topic for a novel, indeed. And Torgesen's book has its strong points, particularly the heart-wrenching journey of the protagonist to view herself as a worthy person after suffering the state's label of "unfit to reproduce." But the book suffers from a certain predictability, as well as some lack of depth to the characters. I was bothered a few times by dialogue that seemed unlikely for the characters or time and place. My overall assessment: a highly interesting topic, but not the strongest work of fiction. I would rate it roughly a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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  1. How appalling to know that North Carolina was sterilizing poor women as late as the 1960s. This is the kind of thing that seems to get left out of history books. I'm glad Torgesen wrote about this nightmare. I definitely will read her book.

  2. Well, it's certainly an interesting topic, but I can't recommend the novel as great fiction, I'm afraid.