Novels from here: becoming a mother and suffering from it
The detour is surprising, but going through Laos is an opportunity to look differently at postpartum depression.
To talk about the novel Yu Kam, we must first stop at the one who wrote it. Maude Vézina is a public health specialist who has notably conducted research on postpartum depression.
Her work led her to a long stay in Laos in 2017, which fed her master's thesis. This one was published, but it seemed to her that the experience she had lived could not be limited to a scientific text. Hence the idea of transposing it into a novel, his first.
Vézina explains his approach at the end of the book, adding medical explanations and references. But it is better to know it from the start, because it explains the educational content of the story. It is both its strength and its weakness.
The novel revolves around two trios of friends. On one side, there are three young Laotian women — Seng, Mee and Miou — two of whom have just given birth, and one is struggling to recover. On the other, there is Tim, a Quebec journalist; his friend Antoine, a Frenchman who became a teacher in Laos; and a colleague of the latter, Michel, also French and a psychologist.
All these characters are characterized by their generosity and kindness, which makes them sympathetic, but also one-dimensional.
< p>However, their commitment makes it possible to clearly see the support required when a mother sinks in front of her newborn baby. The distance makes it even better to observe the process at work.
Not even a word
In Laos, women are surrounded when they have given birth. The ritual of the bed of fire, the yu kam, is practiced there: for weeks, they remain at rest and in the heat in order to regain their strength, served by those around them.
But for Mee, that's not enough to combat the discomfort she feels. In fact, neither the word “depression” nor the concept exists in Laos. We must therefore learn to recognize a state, to name it and to accept it. These stages, well underlined, are in fact universal. Hence the strength of the demonstration.
It is also interesting that Maude Vézina makes men part of her story. “It shouldn't be a women's story”, as Tim says in the novel.
His male trio therefore brings their knowledge, in particular because Tim takes over the work of his Laotian wife, who died prematurely, who was interested in postpartum depression. But new fathers are also essential to their spouses.
It is also worth following the journey of Seng, the thirty-year-old friend so devoted to others that she forgot herself along the way. How do you get out of your cocoon in a society that does not encourage you to do so? The author responds with an agreed romance, but the young woman's questioning is relevant.
Finally, the author's love for Laos embellishes a lesson that will be particularly appreciated by new parents. .