- A Kirkus Best Fiction of 2016 selection
- An NPR Best Book of 2016 selection
- A Literary Hub Best Book of 2016 selection
- An Irish Independent Best Book of 2016 selection
- A New Yorker Books We Loved in 2016 selection
- Named a "most anticipated" novel of 2016 by The Millions, Flavorwire, and The Week
- On Recommended lists at the Los Angeles Times, Literary Hub, Entertainment Weekly, San Diego magazine, Entropy, Book Riot, and others
- A Guardian Not the Booker long list selection
- Starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal
- Starred review/Pick of the Week from Publishers Weekly
- Featured on NPR's Fresh Air and Weekend Edition and on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show
- The Week's Novel of the Week
From the publisher:
Lore arrives at the hospital alone—no husband, no partner, no friends. Her birth plan is explicit: she wants no fetal monitor, no IV, no epidural. Franckline, a nurse in the maternity ward—herself on the verge of showing—is patient with the young woman. She knows what it's like to worry that something might go wrong, and she understands the distress when it does. She knows as well as anyone the severe challenge of childbirth, what it does to the mind and body.
Eleven Hours is the story of two soon-to-be mothers who, in the midst of a difficult labor, are forced to reckon with their pasts and re-create their futures. Lore must disentangle herself from a love triangle. Franckline must move beyond past traumas to accept the life that's waiting for her. Pamela Erens moves seamlessly between their begrudging partnership and the memories evoked by so intense an experience: for Lore, of the father of her child and her former best friend; for Franckline, of the family in Haiti from which she's exiled. At turns urgent and lyrical, Erens's novel is a visceral portrait of childbirth, and a vivid rendering of the way we approach motherhood—with fear and joy, anguish and awe.
"Erens [writes] without preaching and without judgment, creating one of the most realistic and harrowing portrayals of birth you are likely to encounter in fiction. She has also written an indelible portrait of two women coming to terms with the desire, fear, crushing losses and fragile joys that have carved their lives, and who know what it means to fight every hour, every minute, to take another breath."
—The New York Times Book Review. Read the full review.
"Pamela Erens achieves the extraordinary in her third novel, “Eleven Hours’’: a visceral story about an intensely painful experience that manages to be an intense pleasure to read."
— Boston Globe. Read the full review.
"exhilarating . . . in the heart-in-throat climax, Ms. Erens maintains her poise and precision. The writing is candid without being sensational, detailed without being clinical. This admirable novel reminds us that even when childbirth is overseen by caring professionals in state-of-the-art facilities, it still arrives on waves of blood."
— The Wall Street Journal. Read the full review.
"a novel about the ultimate female adventure . . . fierce and vivid in its depiction of the exhaustion of the spirit and the rending of the flesh during childbirth . . . tough and emotionally authentic."
— Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air. Read or listen to the full review.
"In fewer than 180 virtuoso pages, Erens knits together two women, two lives, two stories . . . What passes between Franckline and Lore lifts them above despair, thrusting them toward life itself."
— The Millions. Read the full review.
"[Erens] takes us not only into the labour room but into Lore’s mind and body as she slowly approaches the moment of birth; she takes us deep inside Franckline’s consciousness as she feels the beat of her own developing foetus. The drama of birth is not side-stepped, either. This is an immensely powerful, cannot-look-away novel of heart and bone and muscle and blood. The war novel has a rival, and it is breathtaking."
— Sunday Herald (Scotland). Read the full review.
— Megan O'Grady, Vogue
"What a gorgeous book this is, dramatically taut, emotionally wrenching, the prose crystalline. It satisfies the reader as an entire universe in the space of a few hours and a rocking story as well. Perhaps that’s the most surprising thing: this novel keeps you turning pages. We don’t tend to think of labor as driving, propulsive, and yet the story reads more like a thriller than anything I’ve recently read."
— The Common. Read the full review.
"Written with incredible clarity, this third novel from Erens (The Virgins) is a wonder. . . . An outstanding accomplishment."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review and Pick of the Week. Read the full review.
"Powerful--aesthetically and viscerally."
— Kirkus, Starred Review. Read the full review.
"Beautiful and brutal, Pamela Erens’s (The Virgins) third novel is a revelatory meditation on relationships – between adults, lovers, friends, parents, and children of all ages. . . . A quick, intense, and viscerally electrifying story."
— Library Journal, Starred Review
"Erens’ short novel is beautiful, contained, and remarkable. That a novel about the universal, essential, yet ordinary and often addressed process of bringing about new life could be so fresh is something readers can get lost considering."
"After tackling loneliness in her first novel and teenage sexuality in her second, Pamela Erens flawlessly captures the experience of childbirth in Eleven Hours—the fear, the surprise, the other-worldly pain."
— Chicago Review of Books. Read the full review.
"Eleven Hours shows childbirth without distaste or romance, as a uniquely agonizing and dangerous event that so often leads, somehow, to joy."
— The Huffington Post. Read the full review.
"The story of one woman’s experience of birth has been sitting there for years waiting to be told . . . to make it the actual heart of a book is very unusual. … I loved it so much … You could read five manuals as a prospective first-time parent about what’s going to happen in the labor ward and as you give birth, but for a young man or a young woman about to become parents, read this book to find out what you might really expect."
— Yvonne Nolan, RTÉ Radio 1 (Ireland). Listen to the full review.
"Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens captivated me, so much story in the “short” space of an 11-hour labor—a book about birth that goes deep and deeper, past stereotypes and into the philosophical and profound. I’ve been recommending this novella not only to fellow mother-readers but also to freelance editing clients, who might benefit from study of when less can be more."
— Meg Lemke, MUTHA magazine.
"Eleven Hours . . . de-romanticizes impending motherhood. . . . Throughout this beautifully written novel, Erens explores the complicated emotions that connect women and those that can pull them apart."
— Rain Taxi. Read the full review.
"[I] would never be bold enough to say that I had a clue of what was going on in a woman's head during labor--until maybe now. . . . Really expertly done."
— Emerging Writers Network. Read the full review.
"Eleven Hours is about letting go of expectations . . . It is about learning to process the past so that it does not impede the future. It is about the unknowns that lay before us and questions without immediate answers. And finally, it is about making decisions – and deciding again and again, after life has responded to our initial plans. . . . It is a must read for all expectant mothers."
— The Literary Review. Read the full review.
"Pamela Erens has given us a dream that becomes a nightmare and is restored again to dream, a vital, microcosmic, fundamental, riveting, distilled illumination of our most profound and misunderstood passage, the rite at which every reader can marvel: someone once did that for me. As essential a novel as they come.”
— Elisa Albert, author of After Birth
“Childbirth, this uniquely female form of heroism, is rarely documented in our literature, and I’ve never seen it rendered with the extraordinary insight, urgency, and potency of Eleven Hours. Every dilation and contraction of feeling is recorded, and Erens evokes the layered experience of living in a body—its tides of memory, sensation, and emotion—like no other writer I know.”
— Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
"I loved Eleven Hours. In this gorgeous, haunting, slender novel, Pamela Erens creates an intimacy that is all-encompassing."
—Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist
"With exhilarating speed the wonderful Pamela Erens describes the stories of two women as one gives birth to her first child and the other tries to contain her fears around motherhood. Miraculously, in these few beautiful pages, we learn everything we need to know about these characters and their lives. A brilliantly suspenseful and moving novel."
— Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"With Eleven Hours, Pamela Erens solidifies her standing as one of the most gifted fiction writers we have. This exploration of a woman's time in labor is at once gritty and graceful, harrowing and compassionate. It is no small challenge to make a subject as old as life itself feel newly observed and newly revelatory, but Erens does exactly that and more. Bravo!"
— Robin Black, author of Life Drawing
"Deeply moving and radiantly written, Eleven Hours is a gorgeous, harrowing, and intensely urgent novel. Pamela Erens is a mesmerizingly smart and powerful writer—I can't stop thinking about this book."
— Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
“Eleven Hours is taut, spare, and gorgeous, a slow beautiful spinning of tension and story that embraces two women whose lives interlock at the moment in which life enters the world: birth. Pamela Erens's prose manages to be both meditative and urgent.”
— Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
"Quietly, without the fanfare she is due, Pamela Erens has become one of the finest novelists of the 21st Century, and Eleven Hours is another confirmation."
— Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk