Delicate Condition is a psychological horror book that follows the story of a fictional indie actress, Anna Alcott in her late thirties, going through a grueling IVF journey to conceive her first child. Just as she gets ready to settle down and start a family, her career finally begins to jump-start like she had always hoped it would. Her new profound fame makes it increasingly difficult to have a “normal” pregnancy, as she feels that all eyes are on her, wishing her and her unborn baby harm.
Throughout the book, Anna feels as if she is being driven insane as doctor’s appointments get switched, her cravings begin to intensify, her pain is immensely unbearable, and she begins to see things that are not really there, or are they? She is told time and time again throughout the novel that what she is experiencing is “normal,” even though Anna knows something is not quite right with her body. She is continuously told the pain she feels is not as bad as she thinks it is and that something as simple as Tylenol will help grant relief.
While we follow Anna’s journey through IVF, we are shown throughout the book that all of this has happened before, reading the stories of numerous women from as early as the 1400s, to the 1980s, back to the 1700s and so on. You begin to question what it is exactly that all these women have in common. Is it that they are all pregnant, is it that they are all experiencing similar painful symptoms, or perhaps it’s that their concerns are being continuously dismissed by the doctors who are supposed to be well-educated on the experiences of pregnancy, but seem to know nothing when it comes to listening to the worries of the women they are supposed to help. As doctors continue to dismiss Anna’s concerns as “hysteria,” Anna takes matters into her own hands, searching for some answers and remedies for herself. However, the answer she discovers is not quite what she expects it to be.
The book features elements of midwifery and witchcraft, possessing underlying themes of the gender bias in healthcare. It has been described as the “feminist update to Rosemary’s Baby that we all needed,” and after finishing the book I think that title holds true. I would recommend this book to anyone who has experienced their symptoms being dismissed by a doctor or told what they are feeling is “not that bad.” I think that a lot of women, even the ones who have not directly experienced pregnancy, can relate to Anna’s story and experiences. The story is beautifully written and even if you don’t enjoy books, this novel is certainly worth the read.
However, even if you are not much of a reader, you are still able to learn about Anna’s story! The novel is so thought-provoking and captivating that the popular television show, American Horror Story, has chosen to dedicate the entirety of Season 12, ‘Delicate’ to an adaptation of the book. While not exactly the same as the novel, the new season certainly possesses similar themes and is worth the watch!