The Rules Of Conception
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of Harlequin AUS
Rachel has just turned 35 and her most recent short-term relationship has ended. She knows she’s absolutely no closer to finding The One and getting married and starting a family. Actually, finding The One and getting married isn’t really on Rachel’s priority list but the starting a family is.
She decides that she’s going to go it alone and become a single parent by choice. The best way to go about that seems to be by a donor. After looking into anonymous donation, Rachel decides that isn’t for her. She doesn’t want to co-parent with someone but she does want her child to have some form of relationship with the man who provided the sperm although what that relationship will be she isn’t clear on just yet. So she decides to choose a “known donor”, someone she gets to know casually and someone with whom she can talk to and nut out the details of this adventure. She chooses Digby, a Canadian-born accountant to wants children, but not to be a father.
Once she decides to undertake this journey, Rachel doesn’t waste time. She’s already nearly 36 and will be close to 37 before she gives birth, depending on how quickly it takes her to conceive. While she is undergoing all of the upheaval that this decision involves, she’s also dealing with added stress and pressure at work – she has the boss from hell who doesn’t hesitate to undermine her, make her look incompetent in front of colleagues, go behind her back or bully her. Rachel is determined to resolve the situation but she doesn’t know how to go about doing that without just putting her head down and pretending it will all go away. Plus she’s not interested in dating but there’s a married colleague who is showing interest and Rachel does find herself tempted, even though the timing couldn’t be worse.
These are not the ideal conditions to become pregnant in and Rachel is beginning to wonder if she made the right decision going it alone when everything about this process seems tailored for the couple, right down to the ante-natal classes.
The Rules Of Conception is a delightfully constructed novel which delves into one woman’s decision to have a child alone with sensitivity and humour. One thing I really liked about this book was the way in which people in Rachel’s circle accepted her decision without judgement. Her parents and siblings are supportive and her friends are interested. No one seems to think it’s weird that she’s choosing to have a baby with someone that she doesn’t even really know, although they do express concern for her safety and to make sure that she is 100% positive in her choice of father before going ahead with it. Rachel picks Digby but she doesn’t have anyone else come along with her to provide support, she doesn’t introduce him to anyone in her circle of friends. Although several people do try to get her to think about other ways, such as co-parenting with a gay man, Rachel remains firm in her decision. She wants a known donor, but one with very minimal interest in involvement and Digby fits that bill.
When this book is focused on Rachel’s journey, it’s a very enjoyable read. I admire someone who wants children, who wants to be a mother that much that they’re willing to go it alone from the get go. She has family she can move back with late in her pregnancy and who she can stay with after the baby is born until she is back on her feet. She’s financially secure and even though her job causes her a lot of stress, she seems to have no intention of looking elsewhere because she enjoys the work. It seems to be just her boss that is a negative and I think that partially, this is where for me, this book lost its way a little bit. So much is made of Rachel’s boss being the bitch from hell, how she torments Rachel mercilessly, how she’s utterly vile to her and Rachel basically just takes it. The way in which this is all resolved and how the two women are at the end of the book felt well, a bit weak. It took away from the other more interesting story of Rachel and Digby and how they were going about this journey. It was at times awkward, it was at times rather sweet when they were getting to know each other and it was nearly all times, very sensible. They both have very clear ideas of what they want out of this and at most times, those ideas seem to match up well.
Do I think it’s as easy for all women who choose to go down this path? No. There are very few donors in Australia and it does seem that many women who choose this path tend to go overseas to anonymous donor organisations (I believe South Africa is a very popular choice). Do I think it should be this easy? Short answer, yes. Someone in Rachel’s position should be able to have this as a safe option. All of the requisite tests are discussed and undertaken here. I love that this book provided a positive experience of someone making this decision – not perfect, because there’s no such thing. But a generally positive and happy experience where a woman who wanted something got it, even though she didn’t have what traditional society considers to be a rather crucial part.
Book #105 of 2013
**Please note this review is from an uncorrected proof and the final version may be different.
The Rules of Conception is book #45 read and reviewed for AWW2013