Published by Random House Publishing Group on January 12, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Transgender, Women
Torrey Peter’s debut novel Detransition, Baby explores motherhood, through three individuals, brought together by one pregnancy. After detransitioning from living as a trans woman, Ames gets his boss Katrina, a cis woman, pregnant. Katrina is undecided on whether she wants to have the baby. Ames proposes they form an unconventional family with his ex, Reese, a trans woman. He is concerned he will be placed in the masculine, father-like role if he parents solely with Katrina. Ames hopes the gender roles of the parents will be less binary if a third parent is brought in. Ames is also aware of Reese’s deep, longing desire to be a mother and wants her to have an opportunity to have a child. Throughout the events leading up to Katrina’s decision with the pregnancy, Torrey includes flashbacks from Reese and Ames’ relationship. I really enjoyed this novel. The characters are delightfully messy (and not in a voyeuristic way), and Peter’s story is also informative on trans issues. This funny, sexy, heartbreaking story is well worth reading.
I really enjoyed Peter’s loose, wandering writing style. She often strays from the action, diverting into long tangents that I enjoyed. I was reminded of my close friend who can never finish a story without telling a handful of smaller stories along the way. I have seen criticisms of this chaotic style, but I thought it paralleled the characters’ messy behavior in the story. In my favorite of these digressions, Peter compares white trans women to orphaned elephants in South Africa (you’ll have to read the book to understand the comparison). There are many pop-culture references and some random celebrity appearances, including Sarah Jessica Parker (clearly Peters is a major Sex and the City fan). The most memorable and well-written scene for me was a flashback to when Ames first tried on woman’s clothes at a store. Ames’ pure joy while trying on the clothes and breast plates, contrasted with the shame and embarrassment when a cis woman and her daughter walked in, interrupting the magical moment, was very powerful. All three of the main characters are human through and through, flawed and make questionable decisions. I did not enjoy the book’s conclusion, but I will withhold the reasoning to avoid spoiling this otherwise excellent novel.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, dramatic novel, with queer representation. I am thrilled to see a mainstream, best-selling novel focusing on trans lives. And if you don’t have time to get to the book, great news a tv adaptation of Detransition, Baby is in the works!
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, HIV, Miscarriage, Trans violence