The Greatest Gift is the latest fiction release from Rachael Johns, an Australian author with a lot of fans in both the rural romance and women’s fiction (a phrase that bugs me, shouldn’t it just be fiction?) category. This book fits into the latter category. I picked this up because I was curious to see if I would like a new author and because the subject matter intrigued me.
The Greatest Gift is set in Sydney and the Hunter Valley in NSW and tells the story of two very different couples. Harper and Samuel Drummond are a career-driven married couple who don’t want children. Harper works as a successful radio host and Samuel is a lawyer who works long hours. Claire and Jasper Lombard are a married couple who run a hot air balloon business and would love a baby but a bout of cancer as a child has left Claire infertile.
Harper begins to feel like something is missing in her life and when she interviews another couple who got pregnant after years of trying, thanks to an egg donor, she believes she’s found her purpose. She will give someone the greatest gift of all.
The Greatest Gift is told from a few different perspectives, primarily Harper and Claire’s point-of-view. Harper doesn’t want to become a mother due to her upbringing and a traumatic incident that happened in the past. Claire wants nothing more than to give her husband a child. Even though a baby will not not carry her genes, she will have the chance to give birth, nurture and be a mother to it.
I found the topic of egg donation and the legalities of it all very interesting to read about. It can’t be an easy road for people who choose this path in order to have a baby and this book did a good job of exploring some of the issues around this topic. It is also difficult for the donor as they really must be selfless to give a stranger such a precious gift.
I thought The Greatest Gift was heading in a certain direction but was surprised by an unexpected twist which changed the direction of the novel. I’m not sure if I liked the direction the novel went. I would have preferred to see it play out in more of a conventional way as there still would have been some juicy issues the author could have navigated.
Without giving the plot away, one of the characters took a really annoying turn for me. I just didn’t like them after that point. Plot-wise I think the book also lost it for me after this point. I just felt that everything was tied up a little bit too neatly for my liking. If things had of gone another way, this could have very much ended up in the realms of Jodi Picoult in terms of tackling an emotionally charged family issue.
But it’s no good wishing for what didn’t happen. I have to take this book as it is and I think Rachael Johns is a decent writer and has created some real and memorable characters. There’s nothing to fault in her writing ability. If anything, my annoyance with one of the characters and disappointment about the plot would make for great conversation in a book club. I’m sure many people would have different viewpoints reading about this subject and how Rachael Johns handled it. Perhaps a good book is not always one that satisfies you completely but leaves you with questions and plenty of things to discuss.
Verdict: A great book to debate in a book club