Let Her Go, Dawn Barker


Dawn Barker has done it again with her second book, ‘Let her Go’. I loved ‘Fractured‘ (click the link to see my review) so I was looking forward to another of her psychological/ethical/suspense/thriller stories—and I was not let down!

‘Let Her Go’ flits between two time periods. The first begins twenty years’ earlier, when, due to a chronic medical condition, Zoe McAllister faces the prospect of never being a mother. She’s had multiple miscarriages and is entering early menopause. Zoe and her husband, Lachlan, are offered a lifeline, when Zoe’s step-sister, Nadia, who has completed her family of three children, offers to be Zoe’s surrogate.

Naively, Nadia thinks:

‘Some siblings gave each other a kidney, or their bone marrow; how was this any different?’

All goes well and Louise is born—incidentally, this is the first book I’ve read in which there is a character named ‘Louise’.

The legal documents are signed and sealed, and Zoe and Lachlan are officially Louise’s parents. But Nadia’s arms are empty—she misses her baby. She’s Louise’s biological mother, she’s carried her for nine months, and she can’t let her go …

The story moves to the present day, with Louise now seventeen. She’s unhappy and seriously rebelling—drinking and taking drugs, self-harming, risk-taking. After the police become involved, Louise and her parents start counselling.

But the reader is not told which parents they are …

Dawn’s details are vivid, and it’s easy to visualise each scene and the characters as they talk and move and interact. The scenes with the teenage Louise, were especially realistic.

Voices yelled. The lights went on; Lou couldn’t move, but saw herself as if she was the officer about to walk through the doorway: a thin, bedraggled teenager, too much make-up, drunk, high. Stealing amphetamines.

For Perth people, there are recognisable landmarks, including Rotto, complete with Leavers shenanigans!

I was gripped completely by this novel, and the tension kept building so that I didn’t want to put it down. I had to find out who got the baby, and what happened to the sisters, both sisters. I also felt for Nadia and Zoe’s husbands and their parents …

This novel explores the repercussions of surrogacy, and examines the connections between a mother and child, which run deeper than we imagine.

What begins as a genuine and altruistic offer to help, soon becomes something that might destroy two families, and, perhaps, the child at the centre of it …

Let Her Go‘ by Dawn Barker, Published by Hachette, 2014


This is my ninth book review for the 2014 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. For more of my reviews, click here.