Author: Amanda Ortlepp
Simon & Schuster RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Complex and thought-provoking, Claiming Noah is one of those books that invites opinions and discussions. In this case, the moral, legal and ethical aspects of embryo adoption come under the microscope as two mothers stake their claim on one little boy. Who has the most right? Bet you already have an initial opinion!
Claiming Noah starts with the emotional rollercoaster of infertility, with Catriona and James embarking on an IVF program, hoping that one of their four embryos will take. The program is gruelling and, when Catriona falls pregnant on the third attempt, the couple decides to donate their remaining embryo. Going through it all again would be too much, they feel. For Diana and Liam, it’s an answer to prayer. Despite opposition arising from Diana’s Catholic upbringing, the couple chooses embryo adoption so Diana can carry a child in her womb. The two couples give birth a month apart.
The joy of motherhood eludes Catriona, who is unable to bond with Sebastian due to severe postnatal depression. After her illness develops into postpartum psychosis (or puerperal psychosis), she’s admittted into psychiatric care; eventually she returns home, determined to bond with her son. Meanwhile, Diana is loving motherhood, but when Noah is abducted at two months old, her world comes crashing down. When Noah is found two years on, the battle is on as both mothers fight to claim him as their own.
What a good issue to sink your reading mind into! There’s so much to think about. Don’t be surprised to find yourself judging the characters, assessing their motivations, making your mind up and then having second thoughts. Ortlepp created two very different characters in Catriona and Diana, but by the end you’ll find yourself sympathising with each of them. By the same token, you’ll end up wanting to kick Liam to the curb (probably much earlier than Diana considers this). Mirroring life, the characters make right and wrong decisions – some we will nod at, others we will understand if not agree with, and others we will shake our heads at.
The issues of postpartum psychosis and embryo adoption were dealt with sensitively, giving readers more than one angle to consider, and inviting compassion. Over the past few years a number of media-prominent infanticide cases have had links to postpartum psychosis. I really believe more education is needed about this devastating illness and it’s heartening to see books such as Claiming Noah and Fractured (Dawn Barker) taking this on.
It did take me a while to really get hooked because the writing at times felt a bit wooden. However, due to the strength of the plot and the emotional investment it attracted, it was an engaging read overall. I’d recommend this to those who love contemporary, issues-based fiction that challenges them to look at multiple sides of a story.
Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Bookish treat: You would not believe how many boxes of chocolates I have at the moment (courtesy a birthday).