All You Have To Do Is Call by Kerri Maher
View book: All You Have To Do Is Call [A] powerful, thought-provoking novel that is not only important and timely, but deeply humanizing,” as praised by Good Morning America. The Washington Post also called it “remarkable.”
In the early 1970s in Chicago, there was a hidden organization called Jane. When a woman needed help, she would call Jane. Composed entirely of women helping women, Jane provided underground reproductive counseling and safe but illegal abortions. Its founder, Veronica, takes pride in the thousands of women she has helped. However, leading a double life becomes increasingly difficult for her during her own high-risk pregnancy, as she also portrays the role of a conventional housewife.
Veronica’s neighborhood includes two other women facing similar struggles. Margaret, a young professor at the University of Chicago, secretly volunteers at Jane while questioning her new partner’s attitude towards his ex-wife. Patty, who has been happy as a devoted wife and mother, starts feeling that something important is missing from her life. When her runaway sister Eliza unexpectedly appears, Patty is confronted with the real meaning of love and support for a sister.
In this historic moment when the personal was political, Veronica, Margaret, and Patty find themselves at a crossroads that will have a lasting impact on their lives. Against the backdrop of a society that claimed women had made significant progress, these women have to make choices that will shape their destinies forever.
Patreon Early Reads Discussion with Kerri Maher
Carrie and her interviewer, Cindy, begin their conversation by discussing Carrie’s excitement about the book and how they both enjoyed reading it. Carrie mentions that she got the idea for the book from a news story she heard on NPR in 2018 about the women of Jane, an abortion referral service in the 70s. She was surprised that not many people knew about them at the time. However, in recent years, due to events like the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson, more people have become aware of the Jane Collective. Carrie talks about how the changing societal attitudes have influenced people’s appetite for literature on feminist activism.
They then move on to discuss the difficulties Carrie faced in getting her book published. While her agent and editor were supportive from the beginning, there were initial concerns about publishing an abortion book. However, as the world changed and discussions about reproductive rights became more prominent, there was a shift in the publishing industry’s enthusiasm for the book.
Carrie also shares some surprising revelations she had while researching for the book. She talks about how the Jane Collective had a very different attitude towards abortion compared to the current pro-life/anti-abortion movement. They saw it as a healthcare issue and a matter of women’s autonomy and liberation. Carrie found it interesting how language has played a role in shaping the discourse around abortion over the years.
The conversation then moves to the process of titling and designing the book. Carrie explains that the title “All You Have To Do Is Call” was chosen because it had a lyrical quality and represented the essence of the book. As for the cover, there were various iterations before settling on the final version. The team wanted a cover that depicted the 70s and the notion of reproductive justice. Carrie also wanted to avoid alienating readers from different parts of the gender spectrum, which is why the cover does not feature any figurative elements.
The interview concludes with a discussion about Carrie’s next book, which is a dual-timeline novel set in the 1960s and the 2010s. She plans to experiment with a roving third-person narrator and is excited to see how it turns out.
In the end, the participants express their appreciation for the book and congratulate Carrie on her achievement.