let Her Go by dr dawn barker is a powerful and satisfying novel. It takes you on a journey through some very emotional and traumatic events but it is written with great insight and sensitivity. The settings are beautifully described and the trauma is outweighed by a clear and engaging writing style. This is the second novel by Dr Barker who also publishes nonfiction articles on parenting and psychiatry.
The story is written from the perspectives of the three main female characters – two sisters and a daughter, though the focus is on the younger sister, Zoe. It follows a series of difficult events and the emotions they create, but later twists give the novel its climax.
The novel begins with Zoe’s struggle to have a child and delves into the issues of infertility and surrogacy. The broader family are all involved in Zoe’s sister’s decision to become a surrogate and an array of attitudes are explored. Zoe is finally blessed with a beautiful daughter, but this brings a new gamut of difficult emotions. As the characters develop relationships with baby Louise, destructive emotions take their toll. External events also complicate the family’s happiness. The psychological effects of Zoe’s quest for a child on others in the family become a central part of the novel.
Nadia, Zoe’s sister, is the second voice of the novel. She is happily married with three children. She knows the wonderful satisfaction of motherhood and commits herself to her sister’s happiness. However, this act of self-sacrifice is not as simple as she anticipates and she is taken on her own journey of self-discovery.
The novel also brings the perspective of Louise as a teenager. She is struggling with some of the issues of adolescence and this element of family dynamics adds to the overall plot.
The female characters are well developed and believable and their lives and feelings are very real reflecting the author’s experience as a psychologist. She also offers observations about the attachment of a mother and child. Her insight into the psyche of women allows the complexity of the surrogacy issue to be explored. She shows a wonderful sensitivity to the struggles of the 3 main characters and the men in their lives.
The novel is set around Perth, Western Australia with atmospheric descriptions of beaches and cranes above the skyline in Fremantle. Mundane details such as jarrah floors in a weatherboard cottage and peppermint trees above a picnic table create a clear connection to everyday Australian life. These pictures provide a rich setting for the events and the resulting tangled emotions. Later in the novel both Zoe and her daughter, Louise, visit Rottnest Island. Their visits are at different times but the scenes of bare brick villas and ocean breezes link two harrowing events.
Including Louise as a teenager initially seems a little superfluous to the main theme and rather overcomplicates the novel with additional emotional issues, but this ties in neatly in the final chapters.
This book is a page-turner, which will captivate anyone with an interest in families, the love that binds them together and the emotions, which link them. Anyone who has contemplated parenthood will be stimulated to ponder some of the questions, which are raised. It is an interesting exploration of the very modern issue of surrogacy and a fascinating look at motherhood.
The book is available on iTunes, iBooks & Amazon.