Love & Haight
It’s the end of 1971, and 17-year-old Chloe and her best friend MJ take a road trip to San Francisco in a Volkswagen Bug for winter break. Chloe has come to the city to get an abortion, a choice that distresses MJ, a devout Catholic. Abortions are legal in counter-culture San Francisco, although Chloe has to jump many hurdles, both legal and medical. The girls stay with Chloe’s aunt Kiki, a free spirit whose lifestyle involves drugs, a waterbed, and a freewheeling boyfriend; meanwhile, an old flame – not the father of Chloe’s baby – is a student at Berkeley, and he tries to rekindle their romance. As Chloe crosses off items on her abortion “to do” list, she reflects on her life and her choices. Carlton’s characters are likable, well drawn, and believable.
Carlton does a lovely job of portraying the youth culture of the 1970s. The importance of music, the prevalence of feminism, and the backdrop of politics are layered throughout the story in a convincing way. Chloe’s journey to get an abortion is deftly handled, including her encounters with protesters, sympathetic and unsympathetic psychiatrists, and a charming rabbi. Until the last moment, we don’t know if she will go through with the procedure. Although Chloe has a concerned mother, loving aunt, and supportive best friend, she will ultimately make the decision for herself. Love & Haight is particularly topical when questions about women’s reproductive health fill the news; Carlton provides some much-needed historical perspective.