Monday, May 1, 2017

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp, 2017

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This riveting debut novel of psychological suspense explores the dilemmas that arise when motherhood and science collide.

Catriona Sinclair has always had a well-developed sense of independence--in fact the one sore point in her otherwise happy marriage is her husband James's desire to take care of her. As she's often tried to explain to him, she took care of herself before she met him, and did a good job of it. But James has been especially attentive lately as they struggle to have a baby. They succeed at last through in vitro fertilization, but unwilling to risk the heartbreak of another miscarriage, they decide to make their "spare" frozen embryo available to another family.

Diana and Liam Simmons are desperate for a child. Unable to conceive, they are overjoyed to learn that as the closest genetic match to the Sinclairs they are the recipients of the embryo donation. Diana's only concern is her mother's disapproval of IVF, but any doubts raised are quickly eclipsed by Diana's joy of being pregnant.

As Diana is finding delight in every aspect of motherhood, Catriona keeps waiting for the rush of adoration she knows she is supposed to feel, but instead slips into a deep depression. Just as Catriona begins to find her way back to normalcy, one of the babies is kidnapped. Suddenly, all of their lives begin to unravel and intertwine, and none of them will ever be the same.

(384 pages)

This is a very interesting premise, isn't it? The moral issues and shades of gray introduced through in vitro fertilization make for bizarre sci-fi issues that seem a little too plausible to be comfortable.

To be perfectly honest, I never really saw the fight over Noah as a shades of gray case. He clearly belonged, both morally and legally, to his adoptive parents. The entire scenario of the custody battle that is the focus of the second half of the book rang false to me because I just couldn't believe it was a seriously-contested issue. I could be wrong, though–if anyone has any links to similar real-life cases, please do share them with me so I can read up on the issue!

Anyway, the actual fight over "Claiming Noah" doesn't really start until about halfway through the book. The focus is instead on the four parents, beginning with the two couples' complex journey to getting pregnant and then through the first few months of parenthood before things really got intense as one of the babies disappeared. These early stages were pretty interesting, though the description of Catriona's IVF procedures were a little more detailed than they probably needed to be. I immediately took the greatest liking to Diana, the adoptive mom who becomes pregnant with Catriona and James's extra embryo. She was just such a nice, warm, loving person who was desperate to be a mom! Her husband was a total domineering jerk from day one, though. I never liked him.

As for Catriona, she has a very . . . interesting path. I really blame her husband for a lot of the stress and bad reactions that she had, because he clearly wanted to have a baby way more than she did. He essentially pushed her into continuing the IVF treatment, even when she felt miserable after a failed attempt, by making puppy dog eyes at her and guilt-tripping her with descriptions of how desperately he's always wanted to have a child of his own.

I can't go too much into the story details without spoiling things, so I suppose I'll stop there. Suffice it to say that I was absolutely horrified by something Catriona did not too far into the book, which I felt like everyone skated past a little too quickly, and she makes some moral (sexual) choices later in the book that are described in way too much detail for my liking.

Anyway, before I end this review I have to touch on the issue of IVF. I'm one of those people who doesn't love the idea of creating a viable embryo and then destroying it, so I liked that Catriona and James decided to donate theirs and that Diana and Liam took it. But at the same time, as a foster sister who's heard way too many horror stories over the years, I'm rather horrified that people with fertility problems can be so selfish in their pursuit of the "experience" of being pregnant and having their "own" baby that they completely ignore all of the helpless children of the world who have already been born and desperately need homes. I understand the emotions involved in making these sorts of decisions, and I know it's not my place to tell either of them that I have a personal issue with their choice, but part of me says both couples should have just adopted babies and donated the IVF money to charity. In this case at least, it certainly would have saved a lot of trauma in the long run.

Anyway, I can't really recommend this book because of one or too scenes that are a little too sexually explicit. There's also one (fairly justifiable, at least in my opinion) use of the F-word. It's an interesting story, though, and there's a lot going on in both couples' lives. If you don't mind the issues I've described and you're interested to learn more about the book, you can check it out here or via the widget below.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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