Kerri’s Maher’s “All You Have to Do Is Call” is a fictionalized account of the Jane Collective, an underground service provider of abortions and birth control that served the Chicago area from 1965 to 1973 when Roe v Wade struck down abortion restrictions.  While the organization was real, the women and their stories in this book are fiction and based on Maher’s research of the experience of women during this important time in history.  

By telling the story of Jane through the lens of women who could have been involved as providers or clients of the organization, Maher humanizes the story.  A lot of books would explain the structure of the collective or the political and cultural protests going on, or even the legal wrangling of the time.  By taking a humanist approach, Maher draws the reader in, makes us care about these characters.  Once we care about their lives and experiences, we can see ourselves or others in them, people we love and care for.   On a personal note, I have a relative who had an abortion during this time and was later unable to conceive.  I wish she had an organization like Jane to provide a caring, safe environment when she needed it.  

I think some people expect women who would have been involved in an organization like Jane to be man hating harpies (incorrectly of course – feminists don’t hate men), but Maher portrays several healthy loving relationships.  Her characters are wives, mothers, girlfriends.  They are ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, but they’re not superheroes.  They just know there’s a better way, a way that honors a woman’s fundamental right to body autonomy in an environment that is safe, without gatekeeping knowledge or assuming a man’s opinion carries more weight than a woman’s. 

“All You Have to Do Is Call” is well-written, engaging, articulate, thought-provoking, all the things you could possibly want from historical fiction and then some.  I try to only give 5 stars to books I know will stick with me, that I’ll remember in a year and be able to recall details of.  This one meets all the benchmarks. 

Maher does an exceptional job of approaching a politically polarizing issue without being preachy.  Could I call this feminist fiction? Absolutely, but it’s so much more than that, and if you’re on the fence about picking it up, I would definitely recommend doing it. It’s both a great story and an important piece of history. 

Lora ⚜️
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