New Release Review: May Cause Love

Kassi Underwood, May Cause Love (2017)

At the age of nineteen, Kassi Underwood had an abortion. She was a directionless college student, drinking too much and pursuing a road-to-nowhere relationship with a drug dealer in the absence of her childhood sweetheart from her Kentucky home town. Abortion seemed the only logical, the only compassionate option, yet she could not let go and move on. Her choice continued to haunt her, especially after her ex had a child with another woman. How could she find peace, go through the grief and pain that the world told her she either shouldn’t be feeling or was feeling for the wrong reasons? How would she get through to the other side without losing her mind?

One problem was that it was so difficult to find other women who were willing to talk honestly about their abortion experiences, even though according to statistics they should be walking around everywhere. Kassi desperately needed to feel she was not alone, that she was not the only person who had terminated a pregnancy without wanting to either subsume herself in religious shame or toe a feminist party line. But those voices seemed to be silent, including her own.

I was sorry about the abortion, not necessarily because I’d made the wrong choice, but because other voices had been so loud that I hadn’t been able to hear my own. Nineteen years of listening to the schizophrenic collective conscience about girls and pregnant people and motherhood and money had filled my head with opinions that did not belong to me.

It took years and much searching and soul-work for Kassi to find her voice, but through many small steps she has come there — and in the process created the community she was looking for. Her account of her “unexpected journey of enlightenment” is woven of her learning from therapists and healers and religious leaders, from protesters and haters as well as listeners and supporters. It’s also an account of her life and love and work journey during this time, of her own growing confidence in writing and speaking about her abortion, of encouraging others to do the same, and of her evolving relationship with God. It moved me to tears at times, but also made me laugh at the ridiculous antics we go through in running away from who we were meant to be. With honesty and trust, Kassi lays it all out before us, and may help us to look at some of the buried truths that lurk in our own pasts.

Some will complain that most women don’t have the resources or the opportunities that Kassi did, that not everyone can attend multiple retreats or have personal rituals created for them or fly across the country looking for answers to their questions. But that doesn’t mean that Kassi shouldn’t have done those things. The fact that she needed to take extraordinary and sometimes expensive measures in search of healing simply indicates that finding our one true self is worth everything we can give, whether that everything be much or little. For Kassi to share her story lays her open to attack and misunderstanding, and may even endanger her life. She does it not as an act of self-aggrandizement or pride, but in the hope that it will empower and strengthen others, and for that I personally can only be grateful.

Not everyone will want to read a book like this. You’ll need to be willing to read at length about abortion, and to consider it not as a fixed, immutable watershed of moral virtue or political values, but as a gateway to the complex, unstable, confusing business of what it means to be a human being in this world. You’ll also need to be willing to contemplate the contributions of many different religious traditions to the journey, along with psychics, energy healers, and a “midwife of the soul.” There are swear words (even if some of them are disguised with asterisks). There are drinking and drugs and addiction and infidelity. But if you can keep an open mind and heart, as Kassi so beautifully does, you may find that it’s all part of the quest to disentangle the mixed-up mess of joy and pain and ecstasy and suffering that is this earthly life, and find the thread of love.

Why was I here? Because I had quit running. Because you can run from grief and sorrow and responsibility and rush headlong into a new relationship or a new city or stalwart friends who will love you while you run, but if you want happiness, if you want love, if you want to become the figure you see in the distance, the future self calling your name, if you want to live the life you chose, one day you will have to stand still and hold all of it — scorched heart and broken brain, bones and skeletons of the past, the black wave of grief and the lucid thoughts of forgiveness.

Like Jacob with the angel, Kassi has wrestled her torment to the ground and extracted from it a blessing of untold value. May her story inspire each one of us to do the same, knowing that truly, we are not alone.

Thanks to the publisher and to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review May Cause Love. For more stops on the tour, click here.

For information from the publisher, HarperCollins, click here.


15 thoughts on “New Release Review: May Cause Love

  1. Your reviews always amaze me. You write with compassion, insight, and clarity, and you almost always make me want to read books I would never otherwise have picked up. I’m not sure I can handle the subject matter of this book, but I am certainly interested in this young woman’s journey.


    1. I should clarify — It’s not that you always review books I wouldn’t read. Sometimes you review books I would very much like to read, or have already read and loved. But when it’s a book that wouldn’t have gotten a second look if I’d come across it in the library, you can almost always get me excited about reading it anyway. And that’s a real gift.


      1. Thank you so much, Lark — that’s exactly the result I would hope for from my reviews, and also what inspires me in other blogs. Sometimes when I read the book I don’t share the original blogger’s enthusiasm, but I always appreciate that they’ve opened me up to new experiences I might not have had otherwise.


  2. Totally agree with Lark about your fabulous reviewing ability. It’s good to know that such an honest, complicated memoir about abortion exists. Your sentiment that “finding our one true self is worth everything we can give” is so important.


    1. Thank you, Chris! Yes, there were many important messages in the book, life lessons that anyone could relate to. That’s why I hope people won’t imagine it’s exclusively of interest for those who have experienced abortion.


  3. I will join the clamor! Reading the review, I was marveling at your writing skill and comprehensive balance, Lory. Thanks for bringing this to my attention– another book for the wish (to read) list!


    1. Aw, you guys are making me blush! Seriously, I am really glad if I inspired you to pick up (potentially) this book; I think you’ll find it has much to offer.


  4. This memoir and your review of it makes me think of “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett which was one of the books I read for the Tournament of Books and which has abortion as a plot point.

    I was surprised by some of the commentary around the discussion of “The Mothers” which seemed to suggest that one cannot be pro-choice and still regretful of the decision to abort. As you so eloquently point out, we humans are complicated and not everything is black or white.


    1. That’s exactly the dilemma that Kassi goes into so thoroughly. I think it’s extremely important that we quit thinking human actions and motivations can be governed by polemics. There’s much more to us than that.


  5. You are so right that not everyone will want to read this book. It is certainly a hot button topic, and an emotionally charged one as well. I’m so please to see that you recommend this book so highly. Thanks for being a part of the tour.


  6. Reading the description of this book, I was a little nervous about this story being told because so many people seem to believe every woman will come to regret having an abortion, even though the statistics don’t support that. Having read your review, I can see that people like myself might be an equally large problem for women who have had an abortion and could come across as not accepting that some women will, in fact, feel regret and/or grief after an abortion. I think it’s important the people realize that every woman’s experience is unique to her and I appreciate you helping me see both sides to that statement. This sounds like a great read.


    1. I think the the strength of this book is that it shows one can feel many different conflicting emotions both before and after a huge life event such as an abortion, and that it is not productive to label any of them as unacceptable or wrong. Statistics can’t easily reflect that complex reality, which is why narratives like this can be so valuable in helping us to find our own voices and express our own truths.


  7. I love that first quote… I think our heads are filled more and more with thoughts and opinions that are not our own, while at the same time, it’s harder and harder to make the time and space to sort through them all. Great review!


    1. There’s so much to ponder in this story about our identity as women and human beings, in relationship to others and ourselves and our spiritual connections. I found it really valuable for that.


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