I’m a massive bookworm. During primary school, I would devour books in lots of tens. I would walk around the house with my nose in a book as I half-assed my chores. In fact, I begged my mum for a library card to a public library because I had read all of the (decent) books in my school. Does that sound like the girl who talks about cock-this and sex-that?
I didn’t think so.
But it’s true.
On Christmas Eve, I decided to start a tradition of opening one present with my son. This present was – and always will be – a book. I had had my eye on a book for the longest time. Initially, I spotted it when I was Christmas shopping with a friend of mine but I put it back on the shelf because I wasn’t shopping for myself.
Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about the damn book, so I got it for myself for Christmas!
The Greatest Gift is written by Rachael Johns and covers the topic of egg donation and the question of what makes a parent ‘a parent’.
Harper Drummond is a highly successful radio host and her husband – Samuel – is an up-and-coming lawyer with a shot at making partner. They’re career people. Focused, intelligent, with their eye on the future. It just wasn’t one that happened to include having a family.
Until Harper interviews a couple who aren’t able to have children of their own. They had travelled down a heartbreaking path of infertility and were looking at other methods of conception. It takes one conversation for Harper to start questioning what she’s doing with her life and wonder if she’s possible of making a bigger contribution. Something that could be the greatest gift of her life.
Claire and Jasper Lombard have the chemistry that you read about in books. The attraction that is felt in the air and makes it hard to breathe. They, too, have very successful careers as hot air balloonists in the Hunter Valley. Unlike Harper and Samuel, they are faced with the challenge of infertility. Jasper has accepted that the likelihood of him becoming a father is low, but Claire has always wanted to be a mother.
With this drive, they dive into egg donation. Could they do it? Would it work? And the bigger question: Will they find someone who is willing to make the biggest contribution to their lives?
When I like a book, I get absorbed in it. I get sucked into their world and fall in love with the characters. My heart breaks with theirs and their story becomes mine, too. The Greatest Gift did that. Rachael Johns did that.
Rachael took the idea of ‘motherhood’ being a singular bond between mother and child and flipped it on its head. Why do we differentiate between ‘mother’ and ‘mum’? She writes it with sensitivity and grace whilst hitting on the hard truths of parenthood. She deconstructs ideals as an ill-fitting puzzle and puts it back together with the same hand. But better, a more modern view.
‘Family’ is a long-contested topic, too. What makes a family? Mum, dad, and baby or grandparents and the cats, too? Maybe it includes a few more. Science and medicine have come a long, long way. It has created opportunities through IVF, egg donation and surrogacy. It has helped through antepartum units, midwife visits, and prenatal vitamins.
This book has layer upon layer of detail. It’s found in the characters, their careers, their backstory, their friends. The amount of information that is crammed into this book is absolutely astounding. I mean, one family had a history of hot air ballooning! That would have taken some research to construct and write in a convincing way. All of it is woven together in a way that is just…magic. It has been a while since I’ve felt this way, but Rachael had a knack for making me ‘fall for’ every character and become their friend. I just wanted everything to work out for them. (Except Samuel, he’s a dick.)
My heart raced, slowed, and stopped in places whilst reading this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Hell, I ended up having one eye on the book and one eye on my son as I chased him around the house. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about this book, I don’t know what will!
This story hits close to home. Especially close, in some places. I think it’s because I’m a parent. Up until two years ago, I was convinced I wasn’t going to have children. I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body, but I knew people out there wanted children desperately. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about it, but I had planned on donating some of my eggs. Then my son happened. And he changed everything.
I believe that’s why I couldn’t stop thinking about this book. The very subject hit a very special place in my heart. So special, that it made me tear up. Just a little. The Greatest Gift is one of the most emotionally-charged and touching books I have ever read.
Ultimately, it’s a story about generosity, the different types of families, and the power of love. I don’t know about you, but I think we can always do with more stories like that in the world. After all, that really is the greatest gift.