The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn tells the story of Francesca, a young teenager from a broken home, who comes to believe the hype when a local homeless man makes his belief that she is the holy mother of a new savior. This is an interesting story that explores the nature of fantastical spiritual beliefs on a girl, her friend, her family, her neighbors, and her town.
There are many different themes that could be discussed here:
- Single mothers and the struggle to raise children without losing oneself
- Religious/spiritual fanatics
- Schizophrenia and the homeless
- Young girls cutting themselves
- Phantom pregnancies
What I am choosing to discuss is the role of the parent when a teenage daughter becomes pregnant. Francesca believes that she is pregnant and her body is showing the physical signs, including morning sickness. Francesca lives at first with the fear of being pregnant, but this fear soon skews as she grows to believe that she has spiritual powers and that the life she is nurturing inside her womb is someone special.
Francesca’s mother, an atheist, at first overlooks the changes in her daughter’s body because she is shocked and overwhelmed at the role that religious fanatics are playing in her life. When Anne finally asks her and learns that Francesca is pregnant, she is doubly shocked. She immediately makes arrangements for a pregnancy test and abortion with her gynecologist. Francesca knows that her mother plans on getting her an abortion, but she has no intentions of letting that happen.
Had Anne forced her child to keep her child or even place the child for an adoption, she would have been portrayed as a villain. Although I did like her character, I found it equally wrong to push an abortion upon your child – even more so when you do so under the guise of “taking care of everything.” Yes, women have fought for the legal right to have an abortion, but does that mean that this should always be the plan of action when an unplanned pregnancy occurs? How is a forced abortion any better for women than forcing a woman to raise or place a baby for adoption?
So, what are the rights of pregnant teens or any other expectant mother who is suffering from a mental illness? Should the wishes of these mothers to abort or to carry a child to term be honored or should a parent or guardian be able to determine what is best? As the mother of two young daughters, this book gave me a lot to think about.
Although elements of the story line are not probable and seemingly dictated by the author’s agenda (gynecologist ends up getting shot by religious fanatic who turns against Francesca after he/she believes that an abortion has taken place), it was an enjoyable book with interesting characters.