How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Our World
By Liza Mundy
Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400044283, 432pp.
Publication Date: April 24, 2007
Skyrocketing infertility rates and the accompanying explosion in reproductive technology are revolutionizing the American family and changing the way we think about parenthood, childbirth, and life itself. In this riveting work of investigative reporting, Liza Mundy, an award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, captures the human narratives, as well as the science, behind what is today a controversial, multibillion-dollar industry, and examines how the huge social experiment that is assisted reproduction is transforming our most basic relationships and even our destiny as a species.
Based on in-depth reporting from across the nation and around the world, using riveting anecdotal material from doctors, families, and children—many of them now adults—conceived through in vitro fertilization, Mundy looks at the phenomena created by assisted reproduction and their ramifications. Never before in the history of humankind has it been possible for a woman to give birth to an infant who is genetically unrelated to her. Never before has it been possible for a woman to be the genetic parent of children to whom she has not given birth. Never before has the issue of choice had such kaleidoscopic implications. If you support reproductive freedom, does that mean you support everything being offered in the reproductive marketplace? Thawing frozen embryos and letting them expire? Selecting the sex of your baby? Conceiving triplets and “reducing” the pregnancy down to twins? Everything Conceivable explores the personal impact on individuals using assisted reproduction to conceive, and the moral, ethical, and pragmatic decisions they make on their journey to parenthood. It looks at the vast social consequences: for hospital neonatal wards, for family structure, for schools, for our notion of genetic relatedness and whether it matters, for adoption; for our nation as a whole, and how we think about the earliest human life-forms. The book explores questions of social justice: the ethics of buying or borrowing some part of the reproductive process, as with egg donation and surrogacy. It looks at entirely new family structures being created by families who have conceived using sperm donors, so that children may have half-siblings around the country with whom they are, or are not, in contact. And it looks toward the future, to the impact today’s technology may have on coming generations.
Fascinating, commanding, keenly observed and reported, rich in personal drama as well as in the science of evolution and reproduction, Liza Mundy’s Everything Conceivable is a groundbreaking consideration of the changes sweeping through our culture and the world.
“[U]tterly fascinating. . . . The breadth and thoroughness of Mundy’s investigation makes it nearly impossible to come away without having your opinions challenged if not changed altogether. Mundy . . . combines a science reporter’s objectivity with a mother’s understanding, and she delivers her emotionally charged and often scientifically complex material in clear, bright and eminently readable prose.”
—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“A stimulating, illuminating look at the booming baby-making business and the knotty questions it raises.”
“Mundy covers all bases, seamlessly merging scientific fact, real-life experiences, and philosophical implications. . . . [She] applies prodigious journalistic and research skills to a topic as compelling and timely as assisted reproduction, and the result is a one-night read.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Everything Conceivable may be the best title of the year. And for those curious, it is an irresistible dispatch from the far frontier of parenthood.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A much-needed investigation into assisted reproductive technology. . . . [Mundy] illuminates domestic life and politics in contemporary America.”
—The Financial Times
“Journalist Mundy proves herself a clear-eyed observer of these procedures and their cultural implications, with an unexpectedly easy style and sharp wit.”
—Los Angeles Advocate
“Mundy, a reporter for The Washington Post, tells her tales in a fresh voice and with a keen eye for detail.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Mundy has compiled an exhaustive and at times heartbreaking survey of the issues raised by the new-fangled science of creating babies. . . . And while Mundy does an excellent job of rendering a lot of very technical information accessible . . . what makes the book compelling are the people she writes about. . . . Such details humanize the ethical questions that dog scientific advances, and Mundy’s skill at choosing her subjects makes for an emotionally exhausting book. Yet those same details, and that same discomfort, make for an unusually edifying read.”
“Everything Conceivable is an earthquake of a book.”
—The National Review Online
“Everything Conceivable is an enthralling tour through Fertility World. . . . Liza Mundy is the ideal tour guide to this remarkable land. She's curious, funny, incisive, and deeply sympathetic to the terribly difficult decisions that would-be parents face. All that you want to know about modern baby-making-from scientific gambles to wild-west law to gripping human drama-you will find in Everything Conceivable.”
—David Plotz, author of The Genius Factory
“Making babies has become a big business in the United States, and Liza Mundy is there at the bedside, monitoring the rise of assisted reproductive technology. Mundy expertly tracks the fascinating scientific developments. But the real marvel of her book is her empathetic scrutiny of the human dramas and dilemmas those advances have brought with them. Everything Conceivable is a pioneering portrait of an industry that has, for better and for worse, altered our ideas of biology, family, destiny.”
—Ann Hulbert, author of Raising America
“Beautifully written, unfailingly smart, Everything Conceivable is a marvelous book. Mundy’s empathy for people struggling to have children is palpable, but so is her keen astonishment at some of the brave new ways science has devised of helping them. This is a book full of unforgettable stories about human beings facing personal, ethical, and moral dilemmas we could scarcely have imagined a generation ago.”