- An NPR Best Book of 2016
- A New Yorker Book We Loved in 2016
- Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016
- The Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2016
- Flavorwire Most Anticipated Book
From the critically acclaimed author of The Virgins, Eleven Hours is an intimate exploration of the physical and mental challenges of childbirth, told with unremitting suspense and astonishing beauty.
Lore arrives at the hospital alone—no husband, no partner, no friends. Her birth plan is explicit: she wants no fetal monitor, no IV, no epidural. Franckline, a nurse in the maternity ward—herself on the verge of showing—is patient with the young woman. She knows what it’s like to worry that something might go wrong, and she understands the distress when it does. She knows as well as anyone the severe challenge of childbirth, what it does to the mind and the body.
Eleven Hours is the story of two soon-to-be mothers who, in the midst of a difficult labor, are forced to reckon with their pasts and re-create their futures. Lore must disentangle herself from a love triangle; Franckline must move beyond past traumas to accept the life that’s waiting for her. Pamela Erens moves seamlessly between their begrudging partnership and the memories evoked by so intense an experience: for Lore, of the father of her child and her former best friend; for Franckline, of the family in Haiti from which she’s exiled. At turns urgent and lyrical, Erens’s novel is a visceral portrait of childbirth, and a vivid rendering of the way we approach motherhood—with fear and joy, anguish and awe.
Pamela Erens has given us a dream that becomes a nightmare and is restored again to dream, a vital, microcosmic, fundamental, riveting, distilled illumination of our most profound and misunderstood passage, the rite at which every reader can marvel: someone once did that for me. As essential a novel as they come.
—Elisa Albert, author of AFTERBIRTH
With exhilarating speed the wonderful Pamela Erens describes the stories of two women as one gives birth to her first child and the other tries to contain her fears around motherhood. Miraculously, in these few beautiful pages, we learn everything we need to know about these characters and their lives. A brilliantly suspenseful and moving novel.
—MARGOT LIVESEY, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Childbirth, this uniquely female form of heroism, is rarely documented in our literature, and I’ve never seen it rendered with the extraordinary insight, urgency, and potency of Eleven Hours. Every dilation and contraction of feeling is recorded, and Erens evokes the layered experience of living in a body— its tides of memory, sensation, and emotion—like no other writer I know.
—Karen Russell, author of VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE
With Eleven Hours Pamela Erens solidifies her standing as one of the most gifted fiction writers we have. This exploration of a woman’s time in labor is at once gritty and graceful, harrowing and compassionate. It is no small challenge to make a subject as old as life itself feel newly observed and newly revelatory, but Erens does exactly that and more. Bravo!
—Robin Black, author of LIFE DRAWING
Quietly, without the fanfare she is due, Pamela Erens has become one of the finest novelists of the twenty-first century, and Eleven Hours is another confirmation.
—KYLE MINOR, author of Praying Drunk