Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

 

Title: Claiming Noah

Author: Amanda Ortlepp

Published: Simon & Schuster AU March 2015

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Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Claiming Noah, from debut author Amanda Ortlepp, tugs on the heartstrings, exploring a modern day dilemma raised by fertility treatments which challenges society’s ideas of motherhood and family.

Unable to conceive naturally, Catriona and James turn to IVF to create their family but after the failure of two cycles, Catriona, already ambivalent about motherhood, agrees to just one last attempt and when her pregnancy is confirmed, insists the remaining embryo be donated. After a difficult pregnancy and long labour she delivers a son but from the moment Sebastian is placed in her arms she feels a nameless dread, and begins to spiral into postnatal psychosis.
Diana and Liam are excited when they are told a donor embryo is available and thrilled when it takes. Nine months later, Diana gives birth to Noah, and despite the exhaustion that comes with a newborn and Liam’s casual indifference, Diana adores her beautiful son and then her world is turned upside down when he is abducted during a moment’s inattention.
Almost two years later, while Diana still clings to the hope Noah will be returned to her, Catriona, is happily preparing to celebrate Sebastian’s and James’ birthday with family and friends… and then comes a knock on the door.

Claiming Noah is a heartrending story that eventually sees the lives of Catriona and Diana intersect. Though I found some parts of the plot to be a little melodramatic, the situation Catriona and Diana find themselves is thought provoking and confronting.

At its core, Claiming Noah is an examination of the legal, moral and ethical issues related to embryo donation and adoption. Ortlepp admits she became fascinated with the topic when she stumbled across it and her research shows. Claiming Noah explores a kind of ‘worst case’ scenario which develops into an untenable crisis when tragedy strikes.

By choosing to present the alternating viewpoints of Catriona and Diana, the author encourages the reader to explore the complexities of their individual situations. Both women are sympathetic characters, and there are no easy answers to the dilemma Ortlepp has created. As a mother, the heartache of both Catriona and Diana when faced with the loss of their sons is touching.

A story about motherhood, loss, betrayal and love, Claiming Noah is an emotionally charged novel.

 

Learn more about Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah in the guest post published earlier here on Book’d Out.

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AWW Feature: Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah

AMANDA_177_SML

 

I’m pleased to introduce Amanda Ortlepp today who is celebrating the release of her debut novel, Claiming Noah. Amanda always wanted to be a writer but it took thirty years and a decade working in marketing and communication roles before she started her first book. She lives and works in the inner west of Sydney and is currently working on a second novel.

An emotionally challenging novel, Claiming Noah is a taut and thoughtful story.

Catriona and James are desperate for children, and embark on an IVF program. After a gruelling round of treatments, Catriona finally falls pregnant, and they donate their remaining embryo anonymously.
Diana and Liam are on a waiting list to receive an embryo. Sooner than expected, they are thrilled to discover one is available.
After a difficult pregnancy, Catriona gives birth to Sebastian. But severe postnatal depression affects her badly, and quickly turns into deadly psychosis. For her protection and her baby’s, she’s admitted into psychiatric care. When she comes home, she again struggles to bond with her baby, but gradually life finds its own rhythm.
Meanwhile, Diana has given birth to a beautiful little boy, Noah.
But when he is two months old Noah is abducted … and Diana and Liam’s nightmare begins.
Where is Noah?
This gripping, emotional thriller binds together the stories of Catriona and Diana and will leave you on the edge of your seat.
What if your child belonged to someone else?

My review of Claiming Noah can be read HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn more about  Claiming Noah.

Delving into a scary new world

by Amanda Ortlepp

I don’t have children. And I’ve always been on the fence about whether or not I want to someday. I adore children, especially my nephews and my friends’ children, but having your own is another thing entirely. I feel it’s the single biggest decision people have to make in their lives. I’m often asked if I want children and when I say “I’m not sure” I’m consistently told “You will one day.” Perhaps they’re right, but I think there are plenty of people like me out there who are ambivalent about wanting to have children. And after all the research I had to do for Claiming Noah, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be brave enough to become a mother.

While writing Claiming Noah I researched fertility treatments, miscarriages, difficult pregnancies, even more difficult childbirths. Then of course there are all the problems you can face after the baby is born: trying to get your baby to feed and sleep while facing a barrage of advice (mostly unsolicited, from what I’m told) and dealing with the expectations placed on you by others and by yourself. I learnt that postpartum disorders are extremely common. Eighty per cent of women experience the baby blues, one in seven experience postnatal depression, and one or two in every thousand new mothers experience postpartum psychosis. They’re grim statistics and I really feel for any woman who has had to deal with these disorders while trying to take care of a newborn. Then there’s the competitive gauntlet of mothers’ groups, juggling work and childcare, and dealing with other people’s judgment and advice while trying to work out how to raise your child to be a decent human being. As an outsider to all of this it seems incredibly difficult and I’m in awe of anyone who can get through raising a child unscathed.

Claiming Noah is about two couples on either side of an embryo donation: the couple who decide to donate their excess embryo, and the couple who adopt and implant the embryo to raise as their own child. I hadn’t heard of embryo donation before I started writing Claiming Noah and I was surprised when I found out that it has been available in Australia for over 10 years. I knew that in the past IVF used to produce a lot multiple births – twins, triplets, even quadruplets. We all remember hearing about the mother who after going through IVF gave birth to octuplets in the US four years ago. But most fertility clinics won’t implant multiple embryos anymore. In Australia they’ll only implant one at a time (two at the most). The science behind IVF is progressing all the time and embryologists can work out which embryos have the best chance of survival, so those are the ones implanted first. A consequence of this change in process is that there are thousands of excess embryos in frozen storage. It’s estimated that there are over 120,000 in Australia. So embryo donation makes a lot of sense, even though only a small percentage of couples choose to take up that option.

I was interested in how the lives of couples on both the donating and receiving end of an embryo donation would intersect, so I decided to tell the story of Claiming Noah in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of each of the two women. I wanted to tell the story this way because the characters’ lives are so closely linked, even though they haven’t met each other, and I wanted to explore how the actions of one woman affected the other.

The other reason I had for structuring the story in this way is because I want the readers to empathise with both women and therefore find themselves torn about whose side they’re on. There isn’t a clear antagonist in this story, even though many of the characters do awful things at some point, and I think that’s an accurate representation of life. Everyone has their own agenda and we don’t always think about what impact our actions will have on other people.

I’ve been asked many times by people who have read Claiming Noah how it affected me to write a story that deals with such extreme emotional issues and moral dilemmas. Let’s just say I wasn’t a barrel of laughs while I was writing the first draft. I was working full-time, coming home from my marketing job to have dinner and relax for a while before I started writing at about 10pm and worked into the early hours of the morning. I’m a night owl anyway, so that isn’t as extreme as it sounds, but I remember the feeling of panic when I’d look at the clock, realise it was three o’clock in the morning, and then realise I had to get up for work in four hours. As well as the sleep deprivation, I was carrying around in my mind thoughts of infertility, postpartum psychosis, kidnapping and a mother’s grief at losing her son. Some scenes made me cry as I wrote them, others made me feel like a sociopath. But that’s what writing is all about. If you don’t feel anything, how can you expect your readers to?

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About: Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Title: Wolf, Wolf

Author: Eben Venter

Published: Scribe Publishing February 2015

Status: Read from February 20 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

How should a man be? Mattie Duiker is trying very hard to live up to his dying father’s wishes. He is putting aside childish things, starting his first business serving healthy take-away food to the workers in his district of Cape Town. His Pa is proud.

At the same time, Mattie is pulled toward an altogether different version of masculinity, in which oiled and toned bodies cavort for him at the click of a mouse. His porn addiction both threatens his relationship with his boyfriend, Jack, and imperils his inheritance.

Pa’s peacocking days as a swaggering businessman are done, but even as the cancer shrivels and crisps him, the old man’s ancient authority intensifies as it shrinks, like Mattie’s own signature sauce. Pa haltingly prepares his son for life without him, and himself for life without a male heir. And, while the family wrestles with matters of entitlement and inheritance, around them a new South Africa is quietly but persistently nudging its way forwards.

Wolf, Wolf is a novel of old rigid states and new unfinished forms, of stiff tolerance and mournful nostalgia. With uncommon sensitivity to place, time, and sex, Eben Venter reveals himself to the world outside his homeland as one of its most astute and acute observers, giving shape in story to some of the sea-changes of our time, in the manner of Coetzee and Roth.“

My Thoughts:

I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews – Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.

The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie’s boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy – not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa’s struggles with a post-apartheid society.

The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment.

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Review: Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe

 

Title: Blue Stars

Author: Emily Gray Tedrowe

Published: St Martin’s Press February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Inspired in part by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center scandal that exposed a shocking litany of bureaucratic neglect in the care and housing of injured returned soldiers and their families in 2007, Blue Stars, by Emily Gray Tedrowe, is a story about the realities of the modern day home front for two women.

Ellen is a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward, Michael, enlists as a Marine. She struggles to reconcile her objections, and her fears for Michael’s safety, with her desire to support him.

Lacey is a loyal ‘Army Wife’, enormously proud that her husband, Eddie, serves his country, but she struggles with the realities of marriage to a career Army man, money is tight and she is often lonely.

Though a little slow to start, as Tedrowe establishes the personal histories and circumstances of her lead characters, I quickly found myself absorbed in the lives of Ellen and Lacey. The two women are very different, representing almost opposite lifestyles and viewpoints, who cope with their loved one’s deployment in contrasting ways.

The two women don’t meet until Michael and Eddie, in separate incidents, are badly injured in Iraq and housed at the Walter Reed. As their loved ones battle to recover from their injuries, Ellen and Lacey forge a friendship as they struggle to cope with the responsibilities, stresses, uncertainties and unending bureaucracy of their situation.

A frank and affecting portrayal of the challenges faced by the families of serving soldiers, and the shame of the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, Blue Stars is a moving and thought-provoking novel.

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About: Losing It by Helen Lederer

 

Title: Losing It

Author: Helen Lederer

Published: Pan February 2015

Status: Read from February 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Millie was at one time quite well known for various TV and radio appearances. However, she now has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn’t want it.
When she’s asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill, she naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She will have money, the weight will be gone, and maybe she’ll get more sex.
If only life was really that easy. It doesn’t take her long to realize it’s going to take more than a diet pill to solve her never-ending woes…”

****

 

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Review: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

 

Title: My Sunshine Away

Author: M.O Walsh

Published: GP Putnam & Sons: Penguin USA February 2015

Status: Read on February 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:
My Sunshine Away is a moving and poignant coming of age narrative from debut author M.O. Walsh.

The unnamed narrator of My Sunshine Away is fourteen during the summer of 1989. He lives with his mother in middle class Baton Rouge, where he rakes leaves, plays baseball in the streets, chases the ice cream van and spies on the object of his obsessive crush, fifteen year old Lindy Simpson. One late summer evening his suburban idyll is disrupted when Lindy is is attacked on their street on her way home from a track practice.

This is a story of memory and hindsight, innocence and heartache, blessings and tragedy. Walsh brilliantly recalls the emotional intensity of adolescence, the confusion, the conviction, the naivete, and the regrets that can linger into adulthood. He highlights the joy and melancholy of first love, the shock of first disappointments, and the way in which these things stay with us.

The intensity of the first person narrative is tempered slightly by the adult perspective as the narrator segues between recall and rumination of Lindy’s rape and the aftermath.

“Every moment is crucial. And if we recognize this and embrace it, we will one day be able to look back and understand and feel and regret and reminisce and, if we are lucky, cherish.”

Referencing defining events such as the Challenger explosion, the capture of Jeffrey Dahmer and Hurricane Katrina, Walsh evokes nostalgia for long summer days on neighborhood streets, before the advent of cell phones and the internet. He explores the way in which the experiences of childhood and adolescence help to shape who we become as adults, but also the ways in which our memories of that time may be deeply flawed.

“But for every adult person you look up to in life there is trailing behind them an invisible chain gang of ghosts, all of which, as a child, you are generously spared from meeting.”

Evocative, tender and sincere My Sunshine Away is an absorbing, beautifully observed tale.

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Review: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

Title: Before I Go

Author: Colleen Oakley

Published: Allen & Unwin February 2015

Status: Read from February 12 to 13, 2015  – I own a copy { Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Daisy Richmond is twenty seven, happily married, working towards her Master’s degree and about to celebrate three years cancer-free, when her doctor delivers the news that her body is riddled with tumours, and it’s likely she won’t live beyond six months. Daisy is devastated but her overwhelming concern is for her husband, Jack. How will her wonderful but disorganised and absent minded husband cope without her? Who will scratch his back when he can’t reach, make sure he eats regular meals, or save him from drowning in a sea of dirty socks?

Before I Go is a poignant, tender debut novel authored by Colleen Oakley that tugged on my heart strings as I read it. However, on reflection, I don’t have much to say about it.

It doesn’t offer a particularly unique premise though the idea of finding a replacement for yourself is thought provoking. The characters are engaging, evoking an appropriate mixture of sympathy, admiration, and frustration, but none of them surprised me.

I did feel that the book was well written, and I appreciated the way Oakley tempered the inevitable seriousness with flashes of humour. The underlying message, about savouring and living in the present, is sincerely and simply presented.

Before I Go is an emotional, bittersweet story about love, loss, life and death. A lovely read, just not really memorable for me.

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Review: Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing by Lisa Walker

 

Title: Arkie’s Pilgrimage to The Next Big Thing

Author: Lisa Walker

Published: Random House February 2015

Status: Read from February 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A quirky tale with a hint of magical realism, Lisa Walker’s third novel, ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ is the story of one woman’s search for all the things she has lost….including herself.

“I am forty-one years old but perhaps it is possible … Can my life begin again?”

A year ago, Arkie Douglas’s life fell apart. Her husband left her when Arkie confessed to an affair, and shortly after her business failed, her trend forecasting mojo having deserted her. It’s New Year’s Eve and Arkie is waiting on a deserted platform in Byron Bay planning to throw herself under the next passing train when a young Japanese woman carrying a briefcase and a surfboard, strikes up a conversation. Despite herself, Arkie is intrigued by Haruko Iida and excited when she recognises her own brand of trend spotting magic in the twenty year old. Abandoning her plans for suicide, Arkie convinces Haruko to work with her, hoping to recover her career.

“Pilgrimages are so hot right now. I think they are the Next Big Thing.”

The idea is Haruko’s, suggesting society is ready for a resurgence of spirituality, self discovery and simplicity. Arkie enthusiastically embraces the idea but traveling to Japan is out of the question, so instead she proposes a journey closer to home, a pilgrimage to Australia’s ‘Big Things’. Traveling by train, bus and on foot, while avoiding the Yakuza and Arkie’s ex husband’s divorce lawyer, Arkie and Haruko set out their unusual pilgrimage in search of the Next Big Thing.

From the Big Redback Spider, to the Big Banana and the Big Prawn, Arkie and Haruko look past the peeling paint and wire fences to find the beauty and meaning in the outsized icons. Their adventure is blessed by the Shinto Gods and smiling Buddha’s found in unlikely places, but they face challenges on the ‘yellow brick road’ along the way. Arkie in particular is forced to reflect on the root causes of her present unhappiness and look closer to home for fulfilment .
I enjoyed traveling to the Big Things with Arkie and Haruko, I have visited a few in my time. In fact the town where I live is home to The Big Oyster. It was once a restaurant, housing a roadside cafe underneath for highway travellers between New South Wales and Queensland, but the bypass forced its closure and the site was redeveloped, so now The Big Oyster is empty, presiding over a car dealership.

906219-Big-Oyster--Taree-NSW-1

Truthfully Arkie doesn’t engender a lot of sympathy, she is self absorbed and a confessed adulterer, but I could sort of relate to the questions she is struggling with. Her life has imploded and she is lost, looking for a way to regain her equilibrium.
Haruko is an unlikely spiritual guide in the guise of a quirky, hip Japanese girl. An enigmatic character with an ethereal quality, she is self possessed with a talent for reinventing herself.

Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is an offbeat, sometimes surreal, contemporary novel that will have you reminiscing about your last visit to one of Australia’s ‘Big Things’ and perhaps yearning for your own spiritual road-trip.

Learn more about Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing and Lisa Walker’s connection to Japan her guest post for Book’d Out.

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AWW Feature: Lisa Walker and the Japanese Connection

Lisa Walker

I’m excited to welcome Lisa Walker to Book’d Out to celebrate the release of her newest novel Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.

Lisa was born in Holland, spent her early life in Fiji and her teenage years in Brisbane. Following a stint as a barmaid on the Barrier Reef she became a wilderness guide in the Snowy Mountains. She then moved on to lecture in outdoor education and work in environmental communication. She now lives (and surfs, and writes!) on the north coast of New South Wales with her husband and two sons who tend to come and go. Back in the distant past somewhere she started writing. Many novels later, her ‘first book’ was selected for the Varuna HarperCollins Program. This book, ‘Liar Bird’ was published by HarperCollins in 2012, followed by ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in 2013.  ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ is her third novel,  published by Random House.  She has also written a radio play, Baddest Backpackers, which was produced for ABC Radio National in 2008 and many, many short stories.

About Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.

Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing - cover image‘I watch the highway go by and ponder my situation. I am on the run from my husband’s divorce lawyer, my mojo is still missing in action and my demon ex-lover is lurking . . . But, all things considered, my pilgrimage is going well . . .’ Arkie used to be a trendspotter, running a successful business advising companies on ‘the next big thing’. Until she lost her marriage and her mojo along with it. Her eccentric new friend Haruko suggests a pilgrimage in Japan. But funds are tight, so instead Arkie’s going on a very Australian trip, to all the ‘Big Things’. With Haruko as her guide, magic is everywhere. A Buddha appears next to the Big Redback, the Big Macadamia rises from the jungle like a lost temple and inside the Big Shell she can hear a tinkling voice, reminding her of the child she never had. As her improbable adventure unfolds, realisation dawns: could it be that, despite her celebrated foresight, Arkie’s been missing what was right before her eyes?A delightfully funny and inspiring novel about a very modern pilgrimage, and one woman’s chance to rediscover what she’s lost.

My thoughts about Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Best Thing can be read HERE, in the meantime please enjoy this guest post from Lisa Walker.

The Japanese Connection

In ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ my protagonist, Arkie, meets her friend, Haruko at Byron Bay railway station on New Year’s Eve. Haruko introduces Arkie to her own way of celebrating. First there is bingo at fourteen minutes past nine, then soba noodles at fourteen minutes past ten and a prayer at fourteen minutes past eleven. At fourteen minutes past midnight Haruko gives Arkie a present in a drawstring bag – the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. These gods become a touchstone for Arkie on her journey. There is fat and happy Hotei, whose stomach you rub for good luck, Ebisu, the god of fishermen, Bishamonten, who heals the sick and Fukurokuju the god of wisdom. Arkie’s favourite, the only goddess in the group, is Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows, her shrines are usually situated near water. She is fertile and a competent wife. Everything I am not, Arkie thinks.
???????????????????????????????Haruko tells Arkie that every New Year’s night the Lucky Gods travel around to houses on their treasure ship. Arkie must draw a picture of the Lucky Gods and place it under her pillow. If she has a good dream then it will come true.
I was drawn to the Lucky Gods because I kept seeing them everywhere I went in Japan. Sometimes they were ancient statues covered in snow, sometimes little models for sale on the street. I began to notice how the individual god’s names popped up everywhere. Ebisu, for example, is both a brand of beer and a locality in Tokyo. I bought a model of the Lucky Gods and brought it home. It sat next to my computer while I wrote the novel and gave me inspiration when I flagged.
???????????????????????????????Haruko’s present becomes an integral part of Arkie’s journey but she also introduces her to many other facets of Japan. When Haruko writes a trendspotting proposal about pilgrimages she includes a picture of Tori gates – archways which guide you from the everyday world to the spiritual. The picture is from a temple near Kyoto where you walk through hundreds of Tori gates on your way to the shrine at the top of a hill. This shrine, called Fushimi Inari, is for the fox goddess, Inari, who is also associated with fertility.

Inari appears in my story in the form of a white foxy dog with a mysterious influence.
‘Inari possesses you through your fingernails,’ Haruko says.
‘What happens if you are possessed by Inari?’ says Arkie.
‘You go a little crazy,’ says Haruko.
Strange things start to happen. Each way Arkie turns she finds a little bit of magic. A dusty teapot picked up on the side of the road could be Tanuki, Haruko tells her. Tanuki is a racoon dog who is a bit of a trickster. Tanuki takes many forms and often turns himself into a teapot, Haruko says.
Under Haruko’s guidance Arkie’s pilgrimage becomes much more than just a journey to the Big Things. Two worlds merge and every day is filled with new revelations.

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Review: The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

 

Title: The Secrets of Midwives

Author: Sally Hepworth

Published: Macmillan February 2015

Status: Read from February 05 to 06, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A warm hearted story of family, motherhood and midwifery, The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth features three generations of women – Neva, Grace, and Floss.

“I suppose you could say I was born to be a midwife. Three generations of women in my family had devoted their lies to bringing babies into the world; the work was in my blood. But my path wasn’t so obvious as that. I wasn’t my mother—a basket-wearing hippie who rejoiced in the magic of new, precious life. I wasn’t my grandmother—wise, no nonsense, with a strong belief in the power of natural birth. I didn’t even particularly like babies. No, for me, the decision to become a midwife had nothing to do with babies. And everything to do with mothers.”

As the narrative unfolds from the alternating perspectives of each woman, it is revealed that they each hold a secret. Neva has successfully hidden her pregnancy for 30 weeks and now that she no longer can, refuses to divulge the identity of the father, her mother, Grace, is struggling both personally and professionally, and Floss, the family matriarch, is increasingly anxious about the repercussions for both her daughter and granddaughter, of a choice she made years before.

Though the plot is fairly predictable and lacks any real sense of depth, The Secrets of Midwives is an engaging read. The drama generated by the women’s secrets is fairly low key, there is never really any doubt that things will work out, and their issues are resolved quite neatly by the end of the book.
I’m a sucker for birth stories so I particularly enjoyed the midwifery angle. I was a little worried that Hepworth may have had a ‘natural birth’ agenda but she presents a fairly balanced view that favours choice for the mother.

The characters are easy to relate to and generally believable. I thought the dynamics between the three women were well drawn, particularly between Neva and Grace whose relationship is loving but complicated, simply because they are very different people. Grace is probably the most nuanced of the three characters, but it was Floss, and her story, that I found most interesting.

An easy and amiable novel, I found The Secrets of Midwives to be a pleasant and satisfying read.

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