Wounding by Heidi James tells the story of Cora, a thirty-something professional who shares her seemingly idyllic life with her doting husband and two children; everything a woman is supposed to aspire to. However, it soon becomes apparent that Cora is desperately seeking an escape from this prescribed lifestyle; guilt-ridden and unhappy, she seeks solace elsewhere…
The first thing that struck me about Wounding was the dual narrative of Cora, our main protagonist, and her husband. As we are privy to both perspectives within the relationship, we can sympathise with both parties and can approach Cora’s plight with some sense of continuity and insight. Whether Cora or her husband are indeed reliable narrators remains to be seen. Cora’s husband seems to agonise over the widening gulf in their relationship, and desperately analyses their past, before marriage and kids got in the way, in order to ascertain why Cora is drifting further and further away from the family unit.
Obviously, it is quite easy to sympathise with Cora; she is buckling under the pressure of society’s expectations of how women are supposed to live their lives; having a good job, marrying the right person and having kids, and all the while, being expected to ‘enjoy’ the confines and restrictions that having a family places on an individual. We are often bombarded by images of what the ‘perfect’ mother and wife should embody by the media, and so often, reality does not correlate with fabricated notions of the role of women and the various guises imposed on them. It seems to me that what Cora is experiencing is in part society-sponsored sadism; the things society tell us should make us happy often have the opposite effect, yet we still do them, despite our better instincts. There is no handbook telling women how to be the perfect wife/mother/citizen, yet it is expected of us regardless; as if we are subject to a kind of tacit social contract in which we perform our duties, and should never expect to complain.
All in all, I found Wounding to be a complex, sympathetic and visceral observation of Cora’s disintegrating sense of self and the effect that this has, not only on herself, but on those around her. Wounding asks difficult questions regarding the issue of motherhood, and what, exactly, makes a good parent, but it also explores the labyrinthine notion of self-hood and how our prescribed life choices can, ultimately, jeopardise our identity (-ies).