Opening with Georgia having just given birth to a baby boy, telling him she didn't think she was going to love him but that she does, and then abandoning him at the hospital, the novel immediately signals to the reader that there is something very, very amiss. It quickly jumps backwards in time to life before baby Haven. Georgia and Alice are best friends. They met when their 13 year old daughters were babies and they've been inseparable, if very different, friends ever since. Georgia, a baker and cake designer, is creative, maternal, and spontaneous. Her husband John is a chef and he's impulsive and passionate. They have the one daughter, Liza, and have struggled for ten years through miscarriages and infertility trying to have another baby. Alice is calm and controlled, always meticulous, a planner. Her husband Duncan is unruffled, a workaholic, steady and dependable, and just the tiniest bit dull. They also have only the one daughter, Wren, and Alice doesn't want another child. But Alice sees how desperately Georgia does and she offers to donate her eggs to Georgia and John so that Georgia's long held dream of another baby can come true.
And miracle upon miracles, Georgia, thanks to Alice's donated egg, becomes pregnant. But with the pregnancy come complications and a betrayal so enormous they expose the cracks in Georgia and John's marriage as well as Alice and Duncan's marriage, and threaten to destroy Georgia and Alice's friendship forever. The middle section of the novel jumps around in time (sometimes a bit confusingly) and changes focus from Alice to Georgia in alternating chapters, making clear to the reader what they love about each other, the ways in which each desperately envies her dearest friend, and what drives each of them in her life. The changing character focus lays bare each woman's emotional needs, the state of her marriage, and the ways the past formed each of them and continues to influence their presents. But it is in the end, when the story's chronology returns to linear, where the emotional pitch is most focused, after an explosive discovery and Georgia walks away from her baby.
The plot twist that fuels the story is meant to be slowly revealed but it is fairly obvious right from the beginning and the catalyst that made it possible, teenaged Liza and Wren's relationship, seemed unlikely to have been handled as it was by Alice. For such a large plot driver, there was actually very little made of the situation between the girls so their young instance of betrayal, which, in some ways, should have mirrored the larger betrayal between their mothers, didn't quite get there. Husbands Duncan and John are described mainly in relation to their wives and so never quite come completely, dimensionally to life. And the ending is just a bit too much, a bit too over the top and unbelievable. Despite these weaknesses, McCleary has imbued this sorrowful tale of a friendship's demise with all the shattered, raw emotion that such stakes call for. She has drawn the all-encompassing waves of hurt surrounding all of the major characters and the devastating fall-out beautifully. And no matter the ultimate outcome of the horrible, gaping rift between them, Georgia and Alice will always be together, embodied in the person of baby Haven, genetically Alice's son but nurtured or nine months by Georgia's body and whose name provides many levels of symbolism through the story. If the premise of the story is rather unlikely, still the emotional truth is spot on in this tale of friendship, betrayal, fidelity, trust, and shame.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.