Cleavage, a provocative new book by Marilyn Gear Pilling of Hamilton, Ontario, is the journal of one woman’s life as told through her breasts.
Breastfeeding ranges from bawdy – her second nursed like a baby piglet latched to the sow – to sensual – they’d become one dumb nurturing animal overflowing with milk and a mute acceptance of the moment.
As a shy young woman, the narrator shrinks from the snobbish owner of a lingerie shop – I see she means for me to try it on, she means to follow me inside, which means she’ll see that I don’t know …
In midlife, the narrator gets professionally fitted and acquires Dolly Parton knockers, which leads to erotic adventures – I went with him to a beach in France…they were sunlove ripe, the breasts of La Bourgogne.
After age fifty, there are humorous experiences such as mammograms – gripped between the jaws of a vice and ironed into pasty papery dough.
Then a series that depicts the husband’s breast cancer:
They want to save him from feeling a freak but he is pleased to be a rarity among me. The narrator fantasizes an old age among cows. Head braced by warm curve of cow belly, that barrel tub of the four sto achs.
The tone throughout is humorous and irreverent but beneath is a serious theme – seeing the breast as an agent of connection, at all ages, rather than as a site of shame or a dehumanized object.