Australian Health Today - - Contents -

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.

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