Danielle Steel's novel, "Mixed Blessings", is often revered as "...definitely one of Steel's all-time best books"--a phenomenal best seller by "America's #1 best-selling Author" (Contemporary Authors--Steel). "M
ixed Blessings" was published in 1992, and was included on Bestseller lists for both hardbacks and softbacks through 1994. Steel's novel ranked anywhere from #2-#8 on Bestseller lists during this time span. The consistent popularity of this novel can be
attributed to its serious subject matter--infertility. Readership may include those Americans who suffer infertility as a reality, those who wish to cure their curiosity and educate themselves, and for many, this novel offered Steel fans a chance to ind
ulge in a more meaningful subject matter. "Mixed Blessings" contains many redeemable qualities, as well as modern trends that add to its popularity.
Steel's novel is praised for its serious issues, straight forward dialogue, plot twists, distinctive characters, medical accuracy, and its moral lesson. "Mixed Blessings" is praised as one of Steel's most serious and important topics, as it deals with t
hree different couples undergoing the setbacks of infertility. With her smooth tone, Steel engulfs readers in a saga in which three couples undergo hardships, confusion and depression due to the struggles of infertility. "...Steel has done her homework h
ere, and it shows. The deep pain some couples feel about childlessness--albeit laid on with a trowel by Steel--and the seeming salvation of medical technology provide perfect soap-opera tension, but Steel goes deeper. With a maturity and control she has
not shown in other novels, she deftly weaves three complicated stories into a single, bold message about choice and destiny in modern life" (Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle). Where Steel is often accused of "movie talk" or "movie-mag talk", "Mixed Ble
ssings" breaks this trend with its straight forward dialogue: "[Mixed Blessings contains] a very refreshing dialogue for Steel, who too often descends to movie talk (I love you, silly girl) or movie-mag talk (It was a band of love that brought them toget
her and kept them there, against life's winds, safe in each other's harbor") even in this novel" (Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle). Steel's novel is also praised for its plot twists and distinctive characters, usually absent in many of her other bestse
llers. "But this time Steel is not so predictable toward the end: Indeed, she tosses in a couple plot twists that are genuinely surprising...and we tend to root for Steel's six protagonists--characters who are more distinctive and fully realized than ot
hers in previous books" (Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle).
Not only is this novel unique for presenting the issue of infertility in "Mixed Blessings", but it is praised for attaining medical accuracy--extremely useful and educational to readers. "As each couple begins the rigorous series of fertility tests, exa
minations, shots, time schedules and consultations with reproductive endocrinologists, Steel effortlessly educates her readers about such matters as whether the female's cervical mucous is ?inviting' enough to the sperm; how ultrasound tests ?see how her
follicle was maturing before ovulation,' and how postcoital tests measure sperm motility and number...and she really proves her mettle when introducing the big guns of infertility technology--in vitro fertilization, intrauterine insemination, GIFT and sur
rogate mothers; as well as the negative side--the wreckage to reproductive organs than can result from embedded IUDs and the kind of ?silent infections' that give off no symptoms, no warning" (Holt, San Francisco Chronicle). Medical accuracy is apparent
in the following excerpt from Steel's novel, as Pilar, a forty year old woman, is attaining help from specialist Dr. Ward:
"Thats true, we can check a few things, your FSH and progesterone levels,
which could affect your ability to get pregnant, thyroid and prolactin, for
the same reasons. We like to see your progesterone levels above a certain
point to ensure conception. We can check your temperature every
morning, and keep a basal body temperature, or BBT, chart. And we might give you a little boost with some clomiphene, just to see if that helps.
Clomiphene isn't always useful in women ovary forty, but it might be worth a try if you're willing. It's a hormone that will fool your body into
producing unusually high levels of progesterone, to help you get pregnant" (Steel, 176).
Steel's novel contains contemporary characteristics that have captured readers of the 1990s. First, the soap-opera craze that began in the 1980's carried over to the 90s, and many of Steel's readers enjoy her soap-opera-like novels. Steel's novels are
often referred to as "...soap opera sagas of riches, glamour, fame, crime, careers, ill-starred marriages, betrayals, intrigue and child-bearing" (Carrol, The San Francisco Chronicle). The first noticeable soap-like characteristic is when the scenes sudd
enly change from one couple to the next, among the three couples. Steel places extra space between paragraphs, where a soap would flash to another scene. The circumstances are very much like a soap as well. For example, Barbara and Charlie both did not
grow up with families; Barbie left her home after being molested by her brother, and Charlie grew up in an orphanage. Both of these circumstances are very characteristic of soaps--characters from unfortunate, mysterious backgrounds. Events in this novel
also change direction extremely quickly like those in a soap-opera. An example of this is when Diana has finally decided she is happy without children: "We're so free. We can do whatever we want, go wherever we want, whenever we want to. We don't have
to think about anyone but ourselves, and each other. I can get my hair done with out worrying about rushing home to baby-sitters...maybe for a lifetime it would be pretty selfish, but for right now, I think I like it" (Steel, 298). Andi replies "Hallel
ujah" and then the phone rings--a phone call which offers them an adoption opportunity, and they have a child within three days. Whether Steel is criticized for producing novels that are soap-opera material, they are what Americans of the 1990s are readi
ng, and attribute the popularity of "Mixed Blessings" and her other novels.
Steel not only focuses on infertility--a timelessly important issue, but infertility is more of a modern reality of the 1990s. Since the beginning of the decade, individuals have become more open to discussing infertility with doctors and friends, and
more readily seek aids or alternatives to procreating. Statistics of infertility are extremely high. One in every 10 American couples struggles with infertility (Lore, The Atlanta Journal). There are 2.1 million infertile married couples, 6.1 million
women ages 15-44 who are impaired in having children, 1.2 million women who visited an infertility doctor in 1995 and 59, 142 vitro fertilizations were given in 1995 (Rotstein, Pittsburg-Post Gazette). Steel hits home when she presents the struggles of m
arriage due to the pressures and devastations of infertility. "[Childlessness] can strain a strong marriage and break a fragile one...couples facing infertility often find it hard to communicate" (Lore, The Atlanta Journal). The tribulations of women be
cause of infertility is not a matter of weakness, but of the hardships they must undergo. "The stress on women struggling with infertility is equal to that experienced by people with cancer or heart disease...only those with AIDS and chronic pain score
d higher. The 1993 study also reported that 63 percent of women who had experienced both infertility and divorce said the medical condition was more stressful than the breakup of their marriage" (Lore, The Atlanta Journal). Steel's subject matter of inf
ertility is extremely important to Americans of the 1990s. It also seems virtually perfect that Steel chose the title "Mixed Blessings" for her novel, as one woman who has undergone fertility procedures explains: "You feel angry one moment, and then so
blessed the next" (Lore, Atlanta Journal).
The creation of "Mixed Blessings" into a mini-series and a movie seemed to increase the novel's popularity, yet the reviews of the television versions are more harsh. Television seemed to turn Steel's phenomenal novel into a night-time soap-series
, which further demeans her subject matter of infertility--causing it to appear petty. "For those in need of happier endings, this tirelessly manipulative momma-trauma hokum is about baby-craving romantics who seek the help of fertility doc Bruce Weitz"
(Roush, USA Today). Television seems to concentrate on the more shallow face-value of her novel, and fails to portray the serious content and issues this novel confronts. "But if you're in the mood for shameless bathos about childbirth, miscarriage, abo
rtion, twins, adoption, and surrogate mothers from hell, with lots (and lots) of kissing, this soaper is for you" (Heffley, Los Angeles Times). Positive reviews of Steel's movie prove to be extremely sarcastic. "What? Another Danielle Steel sob story?
Doesn't that woman ever run out of tissues? Apparently not, because Danielle Steel is back tonight, with the latest NBC made-for-TV-movie based--all together now--still one more of her perpetually best-selling novels. This one is called "Mixed Blessing
s" (and how can we say this) it is a pretty good piece of work--well told....True, we don't often hold that opinion about a Danielle Steel TV novel. Most of them are supertrash, formula stuff. But somehow this one grabbed us and made us hang out on the
finish line. Hey, we're human after all" (Krupnick, The Star-Ledger). It is ironic how much of a distinction there is between "Mixed Blessings" and other Steel novels, yet television fails to recognize it.
"Mixed Blessing"'s transition into television makes it very comparable to Peyton Place, both as a novel and a soap-opera series. Steel is often accused of writing her novels " with one eye on the Big Eye" (Scott, Atlanta Constitution) and formulating
novels easily made into a Blockbuster movie or TV miniseries. Likewise, Peyton Place is described as "...Grace Metalious' blockbuster novel about the dark and seemy secrets of a New England town, Peyton Place" (Chicago Tribune). Peyton Place was an extr
emely scandalous best-seller in the 1950s, and has not been forgotten since. "[Peyton Place] was a soap opera about affairs, murders, rapes and illegitimate offspring in a cozy New England town and was a massive best-seller...Here are all the elements of
the Peyton Place Formula: small town lust, good and bad kids of each sex, and the threat of public scandal" (Gabrenya, The Colombus Dispatch). Like "Mixed Blessings", the television aspect of "Peyton Place" focuses on the scandals, rather than the valu
able lessons to be learned.
Grace Metalious, author of "Peyton Place" is considered to be one of the most "...influential artists of the fifties" next to Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy magazine, and Elvis Presley (Howe, Omaha World Harold). In the same way, Steel is
considered to be "America's Best-selling Author"--thus, influencing America of the 1990s by her art as it reaches many readers. Interestingly, Metalious and Steel are both in the limelight as public personas. Grace Metalious is described," ...a housewif
e in Gilmantown, N.H. shocked New England in the 1950s with her frank portrayal of roughness and lust in a small town. The book sparked a film and a television series and Metalious' life became as chaotic as those characters in her book. She divorced an
d later remarried school teacher husband, George...[and died] in 1964 at age 39 from chronic liver ailment" (The Boston Globe). Just as Metalious led a scandalous life, Steel is often ridiculed for her lifestyle. Steel has been divorced four times, her
most recent divorce with businessman John Traina. Danielle has one daughter from her first marriage, one son from her second marriage, and two stepsons, four daughters and one son from her third marriage (Contemporary Authors--Steel). "Will there be a f
ifth husband for Danielle Steel?" is a popular question (Carrol, The San Francisco Chronicle). Steel is often ridiculed for touching on a subject matter in "Mixed Blessings" which has no relevance in her own life. "'Mixed Blessings' is about infertil
ity, a subject with which Steel would seem to have little conversance. As her ?Prolific and Proud' article for the ladies home journal indicated, she has publicly celebrated her ability to deliver babies as regularly as the buns popping out of the oven f
or many years" (Holt, San Francisco Chronicle). However, Steel certainly did her "homework" and created an extremely accurate, emotional account of the struggles of infertility.
"Mixed Blessings" is essentially popular for a simple, obvious reason--due to its moral lesson. The title itself so eloquently capsizes Steel's overall message and purpose in creating this novel, as does the text. "Steel waves the story expertly, keepi
ng you interested till the last page. "Mixed Blessings" is a great title, for these lives are full of mixed blessings. But love triumphs, despite life's hardships" (Allard, Houston Chronicle). This moral lesson--to accept life's mixed blessings--does n
ot lie dormant in Steel's novel. Instead, she clearly spells it out for the reader, as one of her characters reflects:
"Its all so strange, you expect one thing and you get another, you pay the
price for everything in life, I guess...the good, the bad, the dreams, the nightmares...it all comes rolled up together. Sometimes its hard to tell
them apart, and thats the hard part...Life has a way of blessing us once its
punished us. We've been hit hard...but perhaps he will be the greatest joy
we share for the rest of our lives" (Steel, 373).
Not only does this novel offer an exciting plot, intriguing characters , and an opportunity to learn about both the emotions and medical procedures associated with infertility, but
the reader also gains a sense of appreciation for both the joys and sorrows that life offers.
Sources for #5 can be found in Supplementary Materials: Text 2.