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Thursday, June 24, 2021

'Two-Week Wait: an IVF story' by Luke Jackson, Kelly Jackson (illus. Mara Wild)

 


From the BLURB:

An original graphic novel based on the IVF stories of its husband-and-wife authors and the 1-in-50 couples around the world like them. 

Conrad and Joanne met in their final year of university and have been virtually inseparable since then. For a while, it felt like they had all the time in the world. Yet now, when they are finally ready to have kids, they find that getting pregnant isn’t always so easy. 

Ahead of them lies a difficult, expensive, and emotional journey into the world of assisted fertility, where each ‘successful’ implantation is followed by a two-week wait to see if the pregnancy takes. Join Joanne and Conrad, their friends, their family, their coworkers, and a stream of expert medical practitioners as they experience the highs and the lows, the tears and the laughter in this sensitive but unflinching portrayal of the hope and heartbreak offered to so many by modern medicine.

‘Two-Week Wait: an IVF story’ by Luke and Kelly Jackson, illustrated by Mara Wild is a graphic novel from Scribe.

So, this is a graphic novel in a genre that’s loosely termed “graphic medicine” about illness, chronic pain, medical study and the healthcare system generally – all in the graphic novel format. It follows the likes of ‘Kid Gloves’ by Lucy Knisley, ‘The Facts of Life’ by Paula Knight, ‘Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?’ by Roz Chast and ‘Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me’ by Ellen Forney. 

In ‘Two-Week Wait’ we get the story of Conrad and Joanne, loosely based on the real-life experience of authors Luke and Kelly Jackson. Conrad and Joanne at 34 decide they’re ready and prepared to become parents … but then 35 is creeping up and they’re still not pregnant. Thus begins their journey into infertility; chronicling their medical diagnoses and then the various specialty doctor’s plans to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to combat Joanne’s previously undiagnosed endometriosis, and Conrad’s slightly-low sperm-count. 

This is an intimate quasi-memoir that tracks the emotional and medical journey through IVF, with illustrations by the Hamburg-based artist, Mara Wild. And I really did enjoy this, even as I was one-removed from the story; as a young woman who has always known she doesn’t want children, I do have friends who’ve struggled with infertility and gone through the IVF process and I suspect having that connection and grounding to the very real emotional arc will hit differently, depending on the experiences you bring to the reading.


That being said; I did read this and think it was fairly … prosaic? Maybe it’s that the Australian publishing landscape has been so painstakingly slow in taking up the graphic novel format for all readerships, but especially adult graphic novels. So it’s not surprising that something like ‘Two Week Wait’ is what gets up with one of our most prestigious small publishers – a fairly unassuming tale with broad general appeal to wary adult audiences unsure of the format, but responsive to the story generally. 

But for me I did find it a little one-note? Even as I thought it was very emotional, and beautifully told via Mara Wild’s cool-toned tenderness with pops or warmth, like the light of hope getting in. 


I couldn’t help but crave a story that goes deeper and more layered. I found myself latching and wondering more about the passing stories and experiences of Joanne and Conrad, and wanting a fuller investigation there. Like Joanne’s previously undiagnosed endometriosis, and maybe a tale about that medical journey – possibly with an ending that accepts infertility and childlessness, or adoption? And maybe the breakdown of, or overcoming in a relationship that comes with these new realities? Conrad begins getting weighed down by the medical costs of IVF, and a big part of me wondered what the journey is for those couples who simply can’t afford $10K per-round of IVF? What are the socio-economic barriers to fertility and family? 

All in all; I think this is probably a great graphic novel to introduce novice adult readers of the format to, and especially if the journey of infertility will be a personal and impactive tale for them. It delightfully reminded me of the British sitcom ‘Trying’, and I am always going to be glad to see more Australian graphic novels, especially for adult readers. But I also found it a little lean and ploddingly typical. 

3.5/5



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