Published by Hachette Australia on 24 June, 2014
Surrogacy is something few of us have experienced from either side. Nonetheless, most of us have an opinion about the effects of surrogacy on all the parties.
For Zoe and Nadia, raised in Western Australia as sisters but unrelated, the question becomes fact! Zoe suffers from lupus and she and husband Lachlan have suffered numerous miscarriages in their quest to become parents. Worse still, following her last miscarriage, Zoe is told she is now in early menopause and having her own child is no longer possible.
Nadia is healthy, happy and has three children. After many discussions with husband Eddie, Nadia decides she is the most natural surrogate, using her eggs and Lachlan’s sperm. It takes three years but after counselling, lawyers, a surrogacy agreement and a family court hearing, Zoe and Lachlan receive the precious gift of a daughter, Louise, from Nadia and Eddie.
…And we all lived happily after. But this is not a fairy story!
Lachlan seems to withdraw from Zoe and Louise, so much so that his absences, as a FIFO worker in the Kalgoorlie goldfields, are a period of peace for Zoe. On the other hand, Nadia seems to move closer and closer, even announcing that her family are moving nearer to her family. Or is that just Zoe’s paranoia rearing its ugly head?
Is Zoe paranoid? Does Nadia in fact regret her decision to give up her baby? Whilst everyone expected a period of adjustment, would it have been easier to choose a non-related surrogate? Just who should be raising this beautiful child, the natural mother or the natural father?
Zoe’s fears of Nadia’s intent are confirmed and after a violent argument with Lachlan, she takes Louise and flees. The novel starts at this point with Zoe on the Rottnest Island Ferry holding onto her precious baby.
Moving forward 17 years, we meet Lou, arrested by the police for breaking into the doctor’s office where her mother works, to steal drugs. This is the culmination of previously existing problems with both drink and drug for Lou. Additionally, Lou self harms, something that emerges when she and her unnamed parents meet with a psychiatrist.
This is a most unusual novel with a slight sense of foreboding found in good thrillers, that slightly edgy feeling when you don’t want to turn the page because what is dreaded may just be waiting there for you. It moves seamlessly between the near past and the present.
I have no experience with surrogacy, so appreciated the author reporting, not commentating on the feelings and actions of all the main characters. Dawn Barker gives a very balanced portrait of the selfish and unselfish actions of the adults. In some parts I could hear the chorus from Man of La Mancha “I’m only thinking of her” when both mothers justify their actions in relation to Louise. These are not intrinsically bad people, they are good people caught in a bad situation and my sympathy moved between Zoe and Nadia in almost equal measure; I supported and disagreed with their feelings in equal measure.
I appreciate the opportunity given me to read an ARC of Let Her Go, with thanks to the publishers Hachette Australia via NetGalley. It is an insightful look at a subject that has the power to divide opinion, the power to create both great joy and great unhappiness. The strength of the novel lies in the fact that despite the subject matter it is an engrossing enjoyable read.
Dr Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She grew up in Scotland, then in 2001, she moved to Australia, completed her psychiatric training and began writing. Her first novel, Fractured, was selected for the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, and it was published in 2013. Dawn lives in Perth with her husband and three young children.