Sunday, February 6, 2011
The Genius & The Jock: "Nobody's Baby But Mine" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genius physics professor Dr. Jane Darlington desperately wants a baby but doesn't want her child growing up, as she did, feeling like a super intelligent freak. So Jane needs someone . . . well . . . stupid to father her child, someone like legendary Chicago Stars' quarterback, Cal Bonner. But this good looking good ole boy is a lot smarter than he lets on--and Cal is not about to be used and abandoned by a brainy, baby-mad schemer.
This novel continues the "Chicago Stars series" and is the third in the series. The main characters are as different as night and day--one a brilliant, genius IQ professor who is unmarried but who wants a baby--her very own baby--but who truly has been marked and emotionally stunted by her family's response to her own brilliant intelligence. All her life she was lonely, out of sync with schoolmates--she was in college when most teens were in high school--and her only way of dealing with this was to immerse herself in her science research. She had relationships but her lack of confidence in her own femininity and social skills had left her hurting and worried that life was passing her by. So she concocted the idea that she needed to find a man who was really not very bright--a sperm bank usually took donors who were professional and with fairly hefty IQ's--someone she needed to convince to impregnate her the "old fashioned way." Through a series of rather bazarre events, Jane met up with Cal Bonner and because she was very good at timing her cycle, managed to get pregnant.
Cal Bonner actually found out about Jane's pregnancy and because of his Southern upbringing, insisted that he and Jane marry. No child of his was going to be born illegitimate!! He dragged her to Salvation, North Carolina, his home town and the community where his family lived, setting her up in an estate previously owned by a televangelist without a car or means of transportation, effectively shutting her off from his family and friends. She was expected to be content doing her research and essentially spending the days by herself. But Jane was more than what she appeared--not just a geeky scientist, but a woman with creativity and some ability to engage in original thinking. Somehow she made friends with Cal's hillbillie grandmother and together they spent the summer gardening together. She bought her own car--a beat-up, ten-year-old Escort which she did not hesitate to drive all over town, and causing Cal's friends to wonder why his wife was reduced to driving such a wreck.
Slowly but surely these two individuals learned some surprising depths to one another, surprises that moved them toward friendship and respect for each other. A side story was a fascinating look at the marriage of Cal's parents--nearly 40 years living together with love, but with some serious fissures of long standing. There are some wonderful moments in this novel and lots of humor. The dialogue is such fun--smart people can really be very funny--but there is deep hurt and pain here as well. Human relationships are messy and there are some really messy aspects to these relationships. That's why I found these characters to be so authentic. Just so very human, so flawed but interesting, so unique in their personal demeanor and expression. I think SEP has proven that she crafts characters that are real and it is this quality that makes it possible for readers to relate to characters.
This is also a novel about personal growth, about the struggle of moving out of one's comfort zone, of finding a way to manage one's response to life situations that are unexpected and which challenge all the responses and values that have guided a person in the past. It is also about charting the future in spite of one's fears, of being able to have sufficient faith in one's self to move forward rather than marching "in place." Jane had to consider what a future without Cal might look like, how their child could be happy with a mother and father who were not together, and deal with the fact that her feelings toward Cal are probably not returned. Cal had to face a future without football even though he was probably going to end up in the Hall of Fame. The coming season could well be his last year. What could he do or how could he fill his days when he retired? What really lay in store for him? Both had some very hard thinking to do.
This was a fascinating read and one I enjoyed immensely. I have found this series such fun and have read all but one of the six novels in the series. On this Super Bowl Sunday it has been interesting to me to consider the behind-the-scenes life circumstances the public often does not see with pro football players. Like all pro athletes the fans hear what the media can unearth about their lives, much of which is conjecture taken as fact. This novel is pure fiction, of course, but it resonated with me as a football wife and one who found the players of this fictional Chicago team so engaging. I give this novel a rating of 4.25 out of 5.