All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Surrogate by Tracy Crisp

on March 7, 2018

Tracy Crisp
Wakefield Press
2017, 230p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Rachael Carter, a young nurse, is asked to house-sit by a colleague she barely knows. Dr Cate O’Reilly is travelling to Vietnam with her husband to adopt a baby. Before long the request has changed. The couple need a surrogate.

Rachael sees an opportunity to leave her own troubles behind, but is soon caught up in new struggles, both sexual and psychological. She discovers that this couple will do anything to see their dream of a child fulfilled.

Surrogate is an unflinching depiction of the issues around motherhood, both past and present, by a writer at the peak of her talents.

Surrogacy is a topic I’m really interested in – I always have been, ever since I was at university. I lived on campus with a bunch of other people and one of the girls I became good friends with had been born with massive heart problems. She’d had numerous operations and had been told that she’d never be able to handle the strain of carrying a baby. I told her at the time that when we were both at that stage of our lives, I’d be a surrogate for her. Unfortunately, I never got the chance, because she died of complications from one of her heart issues when we were just 21. I’m in my mid-thirties now and having had two kids of my own, I still feel as though that was something I could’ve done. I was blessed with easy pregnancies, deliveries and recoveries.

The situation in this novel is a little different in that Rachael, a haematology nurse, doesn’t really know Cate. They’re not friends. But Cate asks Rachael to housesit for her and her husband whilst they go to Vietnam to finalise the adoption of a baby. When that doesn’t pan out, Cate and her husband Drum approach Rachael about potentially being a surrogate for them. Despite the fact that Cate and Drum returned from Vietnam, Rachael is still staying with them in their home – something they encourage. And then they move on to the next step of attempting to have the child they desire.

This book is set in Australia, so any surrogacy in Australia must be altruistic. You cannot profit from it, like you can in America where surrogates are paid a fee for their services, as well as having their medical bills covered. Here you can only accept reimbursement for medical bills and because of our public health system, it’s possible to have a baby and only be out of pocket for an ultrasound and that’s it. I think both my pregnancies cost me around $200 for the nuchal scan and whatever the price of my pregnancy vitamins was. That’s about it. However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t deals to be done….privately.

This isn’t a long book so I have to say, the development of what goes on between Rachael, Cate and Drum felt….rapid. Even from the very first approach to her, requesting that she think about being a surrogate, and it only kind of escalates from there. I think that Rachael is in a very emotionally vulnerable place when she’s approached. Around the time the book begins she has just experienced a broken engagement for quite complicated reasons. She lives close to her parents – she seems to have a somewhat difficult relationship with her mother and quite a distant one with her father. She doesn’t seem to have any friends. Cate and Drum are quite obviously wealthy, attractive and charismatic. I don’t get the feeling that Rachael was at all a strong or forceful personality. Rarely are we treated to much of her internal thoughts. She seems to make decisions quite rapidly and is motivated by something Drum offers her and the chance I think, to change her life and get out of the rut she seems stuck in.

This is a novel told in two parts – Rachael is present day (present day is 1998) but various flashbacks littered throughout the novel take us back to Rachael’s mother’s past, starting from a young girl farewelling her boyfriend, who is conscripted to Vietnam. They showcase the ups and downs of Mary’s life and there are quite a few of them. What Mary goes through probably wasn’t uncommon at the time and it has such a strong impact on her, right up until the present day portion of the novel. She also keeps these things to herself, which means that Rachael never really gets a chance to understand her mother either, which perhaps shapes their relationship. Mary doesn’t really understand Rachael’s decisions either. I found the flashbacks about Mary very powerful and they were a really interesting set up for the position that Rachael ended up finding herself in.

I really enjoyed this – Tracy Crisp packs an awful lot into this book for the page count and the writing is stunning. I definitely hope to read more from her in the future.


Book #44 of 2018

One response to “Review: Surrogate by Tracy Crisp

  1. Cori says:

    What an amazing gesture you made to your friend. I can tell you cared about her and would have unselfishly followed through for her. I didn’t know surrogacy is not for profit in other parts of the world. I’m adding this book to my TBR pile. Thanks for sharing your connection to it.

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