North Street First Prize for Literary Fiction, 2022. read review, Feb. 2023.
BookTrib Jan. 2022--"1960s Historical Fiction Holds Up a Mirror to Current Reproductive Health Challenges"
". . . Depicting pregnancy and abortion pre-Roe v. Wade, Sibbison’s historical fiction is undeniably timely in the face of current efforts to restrict and ban abortion access in the United States. . .
". . . While Sibbison’s novel probes reproductive rights in the foreground, the community that surrounds Helen — her mother, her friends, women she encounters along the way — offers a striking and beautiful tableau of compassion amid the looming presence of shame. . .
". . . If, while watching the 1987 film Dirty Dancing (another glimpse at 1963), your heart ached as Baby selflessly stepped forward to help Penny when she was in trouble, then Sibbison’s novel will do that and more. Palpably connecting the present to the past, Helen in Trouble would make a fine addition to the library of any burgeoning or mature feminist." Read full review
GREENFIELD RECORDER, Greenfield MA, feature on Wendy, Jan. 2022
HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE, Northampton MA, December 2021 Read full review
Kirkus Reviews, awarding Helen in Trouble a *star* reserved for books of "exceptional merit."
"A 16-year-old girl’s unexpected pregnancy leads her on a hero’s journey in this 1963-set debut historical novel.
"Waking up in a university library with her 18-year-old boyfriend, Quentin Caffrey, after a night of drunken, frat-house partying, prep schooler Helen Bird is panicked, and not just because she missed her chaperone’s curfew. . . .Helen must soon face up to the truth: She’s pregnant, and only an abortion can save her future. It requires the girl to find an inner determination she didn’t know she had, reach out to a friend, trust strangers, and ask for help. Both in the process and its aftermath, these resources come through for her, allowing Helen to make rich connections with feminine strength and caring, finally breaking her and her family’s walls of silence. . . .
"In her novel, Sibbison writes thoughtfully about her hero’s dilemma and its cultural, familial, and personal context. . . A beautifully written, compassionate coming-of-age tale with subtle mythic overtones." https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/wendy-sibbison/helen-in-trouble/
Laurie Stone, author of Streaming; My Life as an Animal; and Everything is Personal.
“One of the great pleasures and tensions of Wendy Sibbison’s sharply observed first novel, Helen in Trouble, is that the narrator looks back lovingly at the most dramatic and terrifying event of her protagonist’s young life—the time, at age 16, she finds herself pregnant after a night of drunken sex. The period is 1963, the place Virginia, where abortion won’t be legal for another 10 years.
"Helen’s parents expect great things of her—‘Eleanor Roosevelt, but pretty.’ As she carries the secret of her pregnancy, she enters a radical aloneness, coming awake to what she wants, what she can accomplish, and who she can trust. Sibbison brilliantly evokes the vagueness of the body to an adolescent girl, the way it feels like a foreign country you happen to live in.
"If this is historical fiction, it’s the kind that evokes now and our possible futures. This book will remind you of your life if you’ve ever almost lost it.”
Melinda C. "Thanks for the wonderful beach read!"
Ann M. "I loved all the characters, the rich portrayals of
their worlds--all felt so vivid and real. So smartly drawn,
so immediate, full of wit and compassion. And the topic,
well, here we are again in 2021, still fighting to keep the
clock from rolling back to square one."
Hannah L. "The writer does a lovely job painting a picture
of the times, for those of us who weren't there, without
tangents or distracting explanations. The story is totally
engaging and, at times, had me on the edge of my seat."
Lynn P. "Real, revelatory, tough, honest, well written. I ended wishing to know more about Helen, her mom, and her dad. All such real life characters."
Jack G. "I just LOVED this book. Found myself very emotionally wrapped up in the end."
Patricia L. "Brilliant. The characters are wonderful, totally believable. I was on tenterhooks as I came to the end . . . . I did especially love Mrs. Manderly and all the Latin--which I certainly do not speak or read."
Bill O. "I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail in the book's descriptions of places and persons. It helped me visualize both as I read it. The literary style captured me from the beginning and was responsible in part for keeping me up late in the evening to finish reading it in one day!"
Marianna R. "I was thinking a lot about my own mother, who is Helen's age and also grew up in the South. All the details about early 60s girl/school culture brought back memories of my mom's anecdotes about her wild teen years, driving drunk to Mexico and such things but always remaining a proper Texas lady with the careful hair and always standing with one foot in front of the other. This book really captures such a cultural/historical moment!"
Eliza C. "Every relationship between women was just stunningly beautiful."
William A. "Helen is set in my time in history, and for someone who's been there and done that, the book captures it the way it was. My college girlfriend became pregnant, and somehow we found a doctor in another state and flew there for the abortion. Disaster was averted, but not misery and fear."
Laurie R. "The character development, the depth and clear complexity, the surprises, the history, and the humor . . . and refreshingly frank."
Gilbert M. "My 98-year-old mom read this book and was very impressed with the writing. She says it perfectly captured how 16-year-olds of that era talked. High praise."