A gripping, compelling psychological thriller that explores interesting issues related to reproductive rights, motherhood, friendships and relationships in general.
Lana Stone and her partner Tyler Jones have been trying to start family for years and have even undergone several unsuccessful IVF cycles. Lana, who is determined to continue, decides to use an egg donor. She would like the donor to have Bulgarian genes, the genes of her people. Lana’s mother defected from Bulgaria during the Cold era. When a suitable donor is found, Lana is fascinated by the photo of this beautiful Ivy League graduate girl.
When a suitable donor is found, Lana is fascinated by the photo of this beautiful Ivy League graduate girl. Unfortunately, Lana and Tyler’s relationship has been under a lot of strain with the gruelling regime of infertility treatments and heart-breaking pain of miscarriages. Tyler tells her he needs a break, although Lana suspects there has to be another woman involved for him to walk out on her in the middle of a very expensive and time-sensitive procedure.
Lana decides to go ahead without informing Tyler and gets pregnant. When she sees the familiar face of her egg donor on a train, something compels her to follow the girl. The girl falls down, Lana helps her ..and here is her chance to learn about her future baby’s mother. Katya seems to be such a spontaneous, joyful person and Lana finds herself immediately drawn to her sparkling personality. They go dancing, which is, of course, a madness in Lana’s condition. While Lana is busy dealing with an unexpected complication, Katya goes missing. The police are not sure there was any foul play involved, but Lana won’t give up on her new friend and continues investigating.
I am going to stop here, as I don’t want to give away the story. The plot is compelling and the book is bound to keep you turning pages obsessively. Is it plausible? Well, the boundaries of what family and parenthood is are becoming blurred nowadays. More and more people become parents later in their lives and a lot of couples struggle with infertility, so the questions raised in this novel are pertinent. Who is Lana to her baby? Being pregnant, carrying a baby to term and giving birth does not make you a biological mother in the eyes of law, since the DNA is Tyler’s and Katya’s. Who is Katya to her baby? Does she have any right to know what happens to the child who is going to have her genes? Does she have any right to know if the child is happy and taken good care of? With the recent advances in fertility treatments, it is possible to remove faulty parts of DNA and replace them with a small portion of a donor’s mitochondrial genetic material, so a baby potentially can have three or even more genetic parents. These are ethical questions we will have to ponder and answer in the near future…
I really liked the characters in this book. Lana is such a positive and loyal person, who wants to know and understand the other person’s feelings and motivations. Tyler remained a bit of a mystery to me, since there were fewer chapters with his point of view. Katya…well, you will have to decide for yourself. There are also some great secondary characters such as Angie, Lana’s friend from her infertility support group and Penka Dimitrova, Katya’s mother.
I also found the New York City setting fascinating. It isn’t just the subway which is the scene of Lana and Katya’s first meeting, but also The Met where Lana works, the park where Lana and Tyler go to have their talk, the club where Lana and Katya go dancing and so on. The city contributes to the overall atmosphere of this novel, focused on strong, independent women and their longing for a meaningful connection instead of safe anonymity and indifference.
If you like psychological thrillers, you should definitely read this emotional and thought-provoking debut novel of Daniela Petrova.
Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P.Putnam’s sons for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.