Gretchen is expecting, and she and Ray, her hirsute life partner, couldn’t be happier. They conceive in her pink childhood room in the basement of Rusty and Judy Glide’s suburban Fort Cloud, Wisconsin, home. As members of Future Parents, a gender-neutral commune in metro Chicago, they decide to raise a Baby X. Imagine the ensuing chaos.
The Glides have not seen their two sons for years. Henry, the eldest, has changed his name to Ransom as the front man for a band named for his younger brother, Carson. Carson, his father discovered early, enjoyed dressing in his mother’s leather shoes and wearing her favorite Cherry Fire lipstick. Both boys moved out of the Glide house in their teens and now rarely write or call. Gretchen, as the youngest child, has had little connection to her parents, until now.
Rusty sells cars, and Judy is a substitute teacher. Each has a favorite evening routine. Rusty packs the freezer full of snow and drinks a six-pack of beer while listening to nature shows at full volume. Judy keeps a pair of mauve heels under the kitchen sink in tissue paper and slips them on before she enjoys a much-needed cocktail. The sound of heels on hard flooring gives her a feeling of power.
Maybe Baby is about connections between family, and how fragile and unseemly these connections can become without needed attention. It’s about loss and finding one’s center and purpose. Darlington’s prose is fastidiously rendered, her characters engaging, and this is definitely a book not to be looked over.