All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

on March 19, 2015

Claiming NoahClaiming Noah
Amanda Ortlepp
Simon & Schuster AUS
2015, 374p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Catriona and James are preparing to start a family and will be using IVF to help them. They have four viable embryos for transfer. The third round is successful and adamant she will not go through that again no matter what, Catriona and James agree to donate their fourth embryo to a childless couple so that they might have the chance to also be parents.

After a hard pregnancy and difficult labour, Catriona gives birth to a son that she and James name Sebastian. Motherhood it seems, doesn’t come any easier to Catriona than the pregnancy did and she finds herself believing that the baby already dislikes her. She begins to show some signs of post natal psychosis which leads her to attempt to do something terrible. For her own protection and that of her son, Catriona receives psychiatric care for a while before being prepared to resume life at home.

Meanwhile Liam and Diana desperately want a baby of their own and are thrilled when they are able to adopt an embryo. Diana will carry the baby to term and it will be legally theirs but genetically it will have been donated by someone else. When baby Noah is just two months old, he disappears. Snatched in a shopping centre.

The lives of Diana and Catriona are going to collide.

Claiming Noah is such an interesting read and in some ways, quite a scary read too. Medical assistance or intervention, call it what you like it’s come a long way. Many couples who couldn’t conceive children naturally are now able to with help in many ways. There’s IVF, surrogacy, different roads a couple can go down. I had heard of donating embryos and until reading this book, I hadn’t thought of all of the possible problems it might cause. It makes me wonder how strict the regulations are because I would consider something like geography very important. It certainly proves to be so in this story.

Catriona and James, Diana and Liam. Two couples that both wish to start a family and both need a little help. When Catriona and James decide to donate their final viable embryo it is Diana and Liam who are on the receiving end which leads to their children being born only a month apart. They also live quite close to each other, in the suburbs of Sydney. Catriona isn’t particularly enthusiastic about being a mother, this seems to be more James’s dream than it is hers but she’s agreed nonetheless. Her pregnancy isn’t an easy one and the labour long, painful and resulting in an emergency C-section, very much against the plan of a natural birth Catriona had chosen for herself. From the moment her child is placed in her arms, Catriona experiences difficulty connecting with him. She doesn’t feel that rush of love, instead she feels threatened, frightened, even resentful. She struggles over the next three months and despite confiding in a doctor that she feels down, she doesn’t confess the true extent of her thoughts and fears. She’s prescribed a mild anti-depressant as the doctor believes she may have post-natal depression but what Catriona actually has post-natal psychosis. She hears voices, sees things. The voices tell her what the solution to her problem is and Catriona attempts to carry it out.

This story is a look at the various systems and organisations and the ethical and moral obligations of both becoming a parent, however the way and also of embryo adoptions. There seems to be a special sort of disdain and hatred for mothers who harm their babies and this is a thoughtful exploration of post-natal psychosis and how it can lead to something that could result in tragedy. I think as a society there’s still quite a long way to go before people really understand various forms of mental illness, especially those that result after childbirth. My great aunt had PND before it even had a name and when my uncle took her to doctors all but one of them had the same advice for him: commit her to an asylum because she’ll never get better. Only one doctor, who was probably ahead of his time, connected her depression, attempts at suicide, difficulty bonding with their daughter back to the birth itself. He prescribed different treatment and although my aunt has no memories of her daughter before she was 2, she did get better. And she was able to continue her life at home, not be locked up for the rest of her life. Makes me wonder how many women were like her who were not so lucky.

I feel as though the process of the embryo donation helped set in motion the events that occurred, in a way. I’ve thought of donating my eggs before, but not an embryo. However if I did, I think I would prefer that it be given to a donor couple that did not live in close proximity to myself and my husband. The thought of potentially running into a child of our genetic make up would be odd. The two children that result are barely a month apart in age, because there was supposedly a cooling off period after the embryo donation that was not observed. I have two boys, 6 and 3 and they are very genetically similar, even with that gap. If they’d been born just a month apart, there’s no way people could come across them and not think they weren’t related. What if those children had attended the same school? Whilst I do support the idea of embryo donation, I think it raises a lot of concerns that could potentially become difficult in ways that the doctors hadn’t thought of. What if boy/girl siblings meet and date? Couples adopting an embryo may choose not to reveal to their child that their embryo came from other people, because they still carried and delivered and those people are that child’s parents. That’s why the court case in the latter part of the book was a no brainer for me, personally. The legal parents are the parents and whatever happened in between was irrelevant. But there would be people who would see it differently, that the baby belonged with genetic parents, rather than adoptive ones. This book carries out very much a “worst” case scenario that’s rife with the sort of illegal activity most wouldn’t stoop to. But there’s also the strong possibility that this book could happen in real life!

I enjoyed this book – I did find some parts of the story a bit far-fetched and the explanations in the latter part a bit offhand but I definitely enjoyed the thought processes I went through whilst reading it.


Book #56 of 2015


Claiming Noah is book #19 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

One response to “Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

  1. […] but I definitely enjoyed the thought processes I went through whilst reading it.”; reports Bree of All The Books I Can Read. “…it’s a credit to Ortlepp that she is able to bring her characters to life so well […]

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