Unborn by Rachel McLean #BookReview #BlogTour

She killed her unborn child. The punishment will fit the crime.
America, 2026.
Feminism has been defeated.
Equality is a memory.
And abortion has been criminalized.
Three women find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Kate, carrying the child of a sexual predator.
Grace, whose baby will be born with a fatal deformity.
And Cindee: abused, abandoned and pregnant.
Can these three very different women come together to fight an oppressive system and win their freedom?
Find out by reading Unborn, a chilling dystopia combined with a gripping legal thriller.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Unborn today. Many thanks to Rachel McLean, Catawampus Press and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

I've read several of Rachel McLean's excellent books and know that her speculative fiction imagines scenarios which are uncomfortably believable. Unborn is no exception and as her first novel set in the USA rather than Britain, is a chilling exploration of what might happen should the anti-abortion laws which have already been passed in some states result in abortion being criminalised for all women.
It is 2026 and women in America are second-class citizens again; their jobs are no longer secure and girls at school are being taught how to be good homemakers while the boys have Computing lessons. The move to reinstate what are seen as traditional values where men are in control and women stay home to take care of their husbands and families is popular with many people but has a devastating effect on women like the three whose storylines are followed in Unborn. Each scenario is completely realistic and it saddens me to say that I can easily imagine a time when ultra-conservative legislation results in real-life women suffer similar fates.
Kate represents the women who until recently have enjoyed a privileged life. She is a single mother but has a successful career and a comfortable lifestyle. However, all that changes when she discovers her boyfriend acting inappropriately around her teenage daughter, Sasha, then finds out that she is pregnant by him. Obviously readers are going to have varying opinions on whether a women should seek an abortion under these circumstances but it is a choice which Kate would once have had that is now denied to her - legally at least. As a lawyer, she still has faith in the legal system and assumes that as an otherwise law-abiding citizen, her decision to seek an illegal early abortion will only result in a fine and a slap on the wrist. It's a sobering moment, therefore, when she realises how wrong she has been and that the state now effectively has autonomy over her body.
Meanwhile, Grace has three children and a fourth on the way. She is struggling for money as her hours at work have been reduced and her husband is on remand, accused of a crime he didn't commit but was unfortunate to fit the racial profile for. She is given the devastating news that her baby has a serious and life-limiting condition but more tragedy strikes even before she has time to come to terms with the diagnosis. Although the new laws affect all women, Grace's experiences still reflects the reality that black women, especially those that are poor, are frequently treated differently to white women. It's not surprising that she has no trust in the system or in the women who claim they want to support her. I found her story to be truly upsetting and as the book progresses, desperately hoped that justice would prevail for her.
Cindee is the youngest of the three women and her story is heartbreaking. It is clear that she is the vulnerable victim of abuse and yet instead of being looked after and given support to rebuild her life, she is alone and in the eyes of many, is a heartless criminal. Her fear of others is often palpable and the scenes where she struggles to endure human contact are difficult to read. I sincerely hope that most people reading this book would agree that there is no way that Cindee should be in this position but if anybody questions whether it could ever really happen, it's important to remember that already in Alabama, abortion is banned even for women who have been raped.
I thought that the inclusion of Maya's storyline was a brave choice because it explored what it would be like to be a woman expected to work in such a dehumanising environment. What would make somebody who has spent years supporting women choose a role where she now has to perform state-sanctioned procedures on them? It would be easy to condemn somebody like that and yet Maya is portrayed as a person trying to make a small difference, even though it puts her own career at risk. I loved that this is a book which presents a number of thought-provoking discussion points and I believe it would make a wonderful book club choice.
Unborn is an uncomfortable novel to read but it's a story which needs to be told. The idea that women's reproductive decisions could be taken from them and become state-controlled is terrifying but when you consider that Planned Parenthood lost federal funding after refusing to comply with a gag rule prohibiting them from providing abortion referrals, the sinister reality is that the current administration in America is already interfering in these choices. Rachel McLean has written about a difficult subject with great sensitivity and empathy and has succeeded in combining an unsettling, perceptive look at important topics with a story which is gripping throughout, featuring well-written, relatable characters whose outcomes I deeply cared about. This is one of those books which which stay with me for a long time. Very highly recommended.

Unborn is published by Catawampus Press and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

My name's Rachel McLean and I write thrillers that make you think.
What does that mean? In short, I want my stories to make your pulse race and your brain tick. Do you often get through a thriller at breakneck pace but are left with little sense of what the book was really about? Do you sometimes read literary fiction but just wish something would damn well
My books aim to fill that gap.

If you'd like to know more about my books and receive extra bonus content, please join my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub. I'll send you a weekly email with news about my writing research and progress, stories and bonus content for each book. And I'll let you know when my books are on offer.
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