Sunday 26 June 2016

Elizabeth Just 16 - Cecilia Paul

Elizabeth Appleton is a sweet and easy-going adolescent. But as she turns sixteen, she discovers something so devastating about herself that her whole world is turned upside down. Elizabeth has been born without a womb or a vagina and is diagnosed with MRKH, an unusual congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract. Frightened and confused, Elizabeth must struggle to understand how she can still be a girl but no longer a 'normal' one. As she questions everyone and everything around her - her burgeoning sexuality, her gender, her hopes for the future - Elizabeth must fight against the shame and betrayal she feels if she is to ever become the woman she has always hoped to be.

In her first novel, Cecilia Paul, now a retired expert in the field of MRKH, sensitively explores and illuminates this complex and often emotionally fraught medical condition, in order to raise public awareness of MRKH and to support those affected by it.

What did I think?

Elizabeth is just 16 when she is diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), which is a genetic disorder that affects the female reproductive system.  When Elizabeth doesn’t start her periods, she is taken to her GP.  On examination, it was found that she didn’t have a vagina or uterus and she is understandably confused and upset.  Elizabeth doesn’t think that she can possibly call herself a girl when the very things that make us female are absent.  Thankfully, she has a very supportive family when she investigates treatment options to help her cope with her MRKH.

It was so sad to read about Elizabeth calling herself a freak and dreaming of simply being normal.  What is ‘normal’ anyway?  As human beings, we come in all shapes and sizes and I like to think that, with education, we are a lot more accommodating and understanding of people who may be different.  Unfortunately, devastating incurable genetic disorders seem to be touching more and more families’ lives these days, mine included.  So although this was completely devastating for Elizabeth, I struggled to completely sympathise with her, due to my own family's recent experience with a lethal genetic disorder, as it was always in the back of my mind that at least her disorder wasn’t a death sentence.

Although I found the book to be a bit padded at times (wow, the Appletons really like their food), I think this book will be a great encouragement to MRKH sufferers, especially those women who are suffering in silence and are too embarrassed to talk about their condition.  There is hope!

I received this e-book from Authoright in exchange for an honest review.

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