‘What is missing?’ – Michael Frank

 “And besides, a thorn is lodged in my heart and there are days when I am finding it difficult to breathe.”

Costanza Ansaldo, ‘What is missing?’

It is rare to find novels exploring the experience of infertility and IVF treatment in depth. But it is even rarer to find one written by a man! The novel focusses on Dr. Henry Weissman and his new wife, who carry plenty of infertility baggage from their previous relationships. This adds a dark garnish of intrigue on top of the angst, both physical and emotional.

Dr. Weissman, a fictional fertility specialist in New York says, “Fertility is its own world, its own country. With its own protocol, its own vocabulary, even its own psychology.”

Fertility is its own world

Yes, it is. And this book makes it clear that fertility is a different own world for each individual undergoing the medical procedures. Not only that, but that own world also extends to lovers, past and present and relatives and friends, too.

The book takes us on a journey of hope and dashed hopes, a LOT of dashed hopes for the couple. In fact, the relationship could be better described as an evolving romance. One that never makes it to the point of a stable relationship, because of the yearning for a child.

Against this background, other complications arise, particularly Henry’s relationship with his sons. One is a bisexual talented musician Justin, and the other, Andrew is a precocious athlete and mathematician. In teasing out these family aspects ‘What is missing’ asks the reader to consider who we are? It also challenges who are those closest to us when life puts us to disturbing and powerful tests.

What is the take home message of the book?

That hope or faith, sometimes waning, sometimes waxing endures. That science presents us with new choices and consequences that have not been experienced by previous generation. Or possibly that God, who in this case, silent and unacknowledged, a construct of hope and science, works in mysterious bittersweet ways. ‘What is missing’ is all this and more.

‘What is missing’ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers. 2019. ISBN: 9780374298388) is available here.