Evie, the Baby and the Wife
a novel by Phyllis Rudin

Print: 978-177133-134-0
ePUB: 978-177133-135-7
PDF: 978-177133-137-1

224 Pages
August 28, 2014
New Fiction All Titles Novel

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Evie, the Baby and the Wife a novel by Phyllis Rudin

Evie Troy, an impulsive and funny young Jewish woman, has a tendency to overcomplicate things. And that can get her into trouble. When her dying friend Jean-Gabriel, a successful and controversial francophone writer, cons her into carrying out his last wish, delivering a monetary mea-culpa to his ex-wife Amélie, Evie decides she knows better. Jean-Gabriel is tainted by a successful play that bears the name of his former and much younger wife whom the public imagines is the inspiration for this play about marital strife. Evie’s mother, Marilyn, hates what she thinks Jean-Gabriel stands for: i.e, older man who marries and emotionally betrays in a very public way an extremely young wife (he was 48 and she was 17 when they married).

A whacky plot unfolds in which Jean-Gabriel dies and Evie inherits the job of giving his former wife, Amelie, his fortune without her knowing the source of the money. Evie decides what Amelie really needs is a baby, something she and Jean-Gabriel were unable to have, a plan she keeps so secret not even Amélie has an inkling a baby is headed her way. Evie’s pregnancy scheme pops so many holes at the seams that she’s forced to enlist the aid of her estranged mother Marilyn. Back when she was Evie’s age Marilyn lit out on the Abortion Caravan, a cross-Canada road trip whose final blow-out demonstration in Ottawa brought the work of Parliament crashing to a feminist halt. Marilyn can’t fathom her daughter’s daft determination to saddle up her womb on spec, but she agrees to come on board and the two of them head-butt their way through every step of Evie’s program, from arm-twisting Mr. Right into coughing up his sperm to staging the flimflam that will relay the newborn to the oblivious Amélie.

On the way we see that Evie and Moshe, the donor /friend, may be falling in love. In a nice twist, Marilyn’s pro-choice activist friends become the witnesses and medical team who deliver Evie and Moshe’s baby. But will Amélie accept the baby they’re offering up gift-wrapped? Played out against the backdrop of the fight for women’s rights in Canada, Evie, the Baby and the Wife is the boisterous tale of a mother and daughter at odds, struggling to reconnect across a reproductive divide.

Evie, the Baby and the Wife

Phyllis Rudin has lived in the U.S., France, and Canada. Her award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous Canadian and American literary magazines. She lives in Montreal which serves as the landscape for all her fiction.

Evie, the Baby and the Wife by Phyllis Rudin
reviewed by Deanna Radford
Herizons - Summer 2015

When Evie Troy enters the world, the infant's primary mode of expression appears to be vomiting. To her parents' dismay, Evie's volatile constitution continues into adolescence. With a near-superstitious obstinacy, her mother, Marilyn, believes the issue is an early act of vengeance.

Marilyn and Evie's relationship, 30 years on, is just as difficult. Both women have strong personalities. Evie and her brother are embarrassed by their mother's past as an activist, and they reject learning about Marilyn's contribution to the cross-Canada Abortion Caravan to Parliament in 1970. The novel's contemporary setting is spliced with entries from 1970, which illustrate Marilyn's early politicization. One of Evie's gifts is a love of words. She works at a newspaper in Montreal, writing obituaries about famous people, while the story alludes to her dream for larger literary future. The novel is an expert crossword-puzzler's delight. Phyllis Rudin's prose is often as musical as the city of Montreal itself, with French and Yiddish peppered throughout.

Despite Evie's familial disconnect (she and her brother avoid marking Jewish holidays with their parents), she and her chosen family from the condo where she lives, faithfully mark Friday night Shabbos around her dining room table. Here, she becomes friends with two men who end up playing a defining role in her fate.

Rudin's dense prosaic style makes for a cerebral atmosphere and for characters who spend a lot of time in their heads. This serves well as a vehicle for transporting the reader from one place to another. At others times, however, the device makes changes in scenery feel somewhat disjointed.

In the end, Marilyn and Evie have a seemingly implausible coming-together to carry out an action that's not so much social justice as it is paying forward good fortune and love. References to Evie Troy serving as a Trojan horse in a repurposed Battle of Troy are unavoidable. It's as if their lives were built precisely for their joint action, despite their differences.

Rudin's Evie, The Baby, And the Wife is a satisfyingly rich feminist tale of triumph.

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Evie, the Baby and the Wife
reviewed by Sonia Smith, McGill University
Association of Jewish Library Reviews - Vol. V, No. 1, Feb/March 2015
http://jewishlibraries.org/index.php

"This novel, masterfully written, highlights the relationship between a feminist mother and a modern daughter. With the neurotics of a Jewish mother, the rejection of religion, the anti-Shabbos gatherings of the younger generation—with a full house on Friday night and a vegan pot luck—and a full repertoire of Yiddish expressions, you can’t help but laugh out loud. The plot is woven in Montreal where we meet Marilyn, mother of Evie, who participated in her youth on the Abortion Caravan, Canada’s first national feminist protest. Estranged from her mom, Evie will reconnect with her again when she decides to have a surrogate baby. This baby will be a present to the barren Amélie, the ex-wife of a friend, but she is the last to know that a baby is coming her way. The book could have benefited from a glossary on the Yiddish expressions, but even if some readers don’t get some of the Yiddish lingo, a good laugh is still guaranteed. A funny, feel good read about fighting for your rights and being a mentsch. Recommended for all community and synagogues libraries. Evie, the Baby and the Wife kept me spellbound as the madcap plot unfolds."

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"Evie, the Baby and the Wife kept me spellbound as the madcap plot unfolds. Like a modern day Shakespearean romp, this novel gallops to its conclusion with intricate twists and turns. Suspend your disbelief (and your matzah balls) and immerse yourself into the intelligent prose, peppered with Jewish expressions. This novel, set in Montreal, is part feminist discourse, a mother daughter story, a love story, a tale of redemption. Underlying the comedy and intrigue are issues such as abortion, the ethics of publishing writing drawn from others' lives, generational divide, and more. With heart and humour, Phyllis Rudin reminds us of how those we love both surprise as well as disappoint us, and that injustice can inspire sacrifice."

—Renee Norman, author of True Confessions, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry, as well as of Backhand Through the Mother and Martha in the Mirror

All her life, Evie’d been in the market for a writer. No other profession packed the same creative wallop to her way of thinking. On her daily bus rides she was on a constant lookout for clues, hoping to ferret out among her fellow passengers Mr. Write. She even had a recurring dream in which she hooked up with a wordsmith. The two of them grabbed their passports, hopped a plane, and set up a love nest in the faraway Republic of Letters where her better half toiled away on his bildungsroman.

The dream had elements that ticked her off, not that she had any control over it. The tableau was classic greenhorn. There she was, the little wifey bringing in a few pennies minding the counter of the candy store so that hubby could sequester himself in the back room with his manuscript, his nib flying across the pages. Awake, Evie considered herself a feminist, but asleep her subconscious begged to differ. It inevitably cast her in the role of baleboosteh, the little homemaker who clips the toenails of the great man. Someday she and her analyst would go to town on her Yiddishe mama dreamscape, but for the time being she just accepted it as part of the armature of her nights.

So far her scheme hadn’t panned out. She was still facing the world solo. Engineering a meeting with an author turned out to be no easy business. Writing was a solitary craft. The successful ones never poked their noses out of their apartments. Only the scribblers were plentiful, out gallivanting instead of locked up in their garrets doing battle with their muses. They yakked more about writing than actually getting down to it. Evie had to face facts. A Mordecai Richler wasn’t about to board her bus at the corner of Sherbrooke and King Edward. She was forced to lower her sights a few notches and settle for a reader.

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