Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Between Friends

Summary: Thanks to modern reproductive technology-and the gift of her friend Cora's eggs-Ali Gutierrez is the mother of a fourteen-year-old daughter. Now, yearning for a second child, Ali asks Cora's permission to use another of the frozen embryos that have been stored away in anticipation of this decision. But Cora has a secret that could not only change Ali's plans for the future, but tear apart her life right now. -- Berkley

I have been a big fan of Kristy Kiernan's ever since I read her book about a child with life threatening food allergies called MATTERS OF FAITH (you can read my review here.) So you can imagine how excited I was to open a package a few weeks ago and find that it was her new novel BETWEEN FRIENDS. BETWEEN FRIENDS sounded like a book that I knew I'd adore because it deals with female relationships as well as a very controversial subject matter -- in this case, surrogate motherhood. I couldn't wait to dig in!

I should probably start out by saying that I read this book while sitting outside on the most beautiful day we've had so far this year. It was sunny and in the mid 70s with a slight breeze -- I even got a slight suntan. Better yet, the kids entertained themselves (for the most part), and I could just sit back and read. As wonderful as this day was, I don't think it influenced my opinion of this book one bit. I could have read it inside on a rainy day and felt the exact same way. BETWEEN FRIENDS was just a terrific read! It had all the elements that an entertaining women's fiction book needs to qualify as one that I'd recommend. The storyline was intriguing, the characters were well-developed and interesting, and best of all, there were lots of surprises towards the end of the story that kept me guessing!

The concept of surrogate motherhood has always been fascinating to me ever since I wrote a speech about it back in college. Putting all of the amazing medical technology aside (it really is incredible how far science has advanced in recent years), I have always wondered what it would be like to carry another couple's child. I've also wondered what it would be like for a woman who couldn't bear her own child to have another woman do that for her. So I thought when Ms. Kiernan decided to tackle surrogacy in this book that it was a perfect topic. Needless to say, I was very interested in the emotional implications that surrogate motherhood would have on the two women in BETWEEN FRIENDS. Ali and Cora weren't strangers when Cora carried Ali's baby, but rather they had been best friends for years. How would they manage being forever tied to "their" child Letty?

I actually was expecting for the two mothers issue to be the primary focus of this book, so I was a little surprised that there were additional ethical issues in BETWEEN FRIENDS. Without giving away too much and spoiling the book for the rest of you, there were other medical as well as moral issues that were explored between Ali, Cora and Letty. I absolutely loved how Ms. Kiernan tackled these issues and really caused me to think. And if a book can cause me to question my values and beliefs, that's really saying something!

One thing that I really liked about BETWEEN FRIENDS is how Ms. Kiernan chose to tell this story. I especially liked that she used alternating points of view from each of the main female characters. I liked that I was able to see inside of each of the women's minds and truly understand their feelings. Even when I disagreed with a character's actions, I was at least able to see the motivation behind them! Had the entire story been told by just Ali, Cora or Letty, I think I would have wanted something more.

I admit that there were numerous times throughout this book where I was pretty sure where the storyline was heading. In fact, I was almost worried that Ms. Kiernan was going to let me down with the ending of the book because it seemed so predictable. Boy, was I wrong! There were at least two times (but more like four) where I was caught off guard with the characters' actions and the turn of events. I enjoyed the story for a wide variety of reasons, like the plot and the character development; however, the twists and turns were an added benefit which really made this book memorable to me.

Trust me when I say that BETWEEN FRIENDS is a perfect book for book clubs! There is a reading guide in the back of the book which explores all those ethical and moral issues that I hinted at earlier. I haven't been able to find the guide on-line yet, but when I do, I will be sure to link to it here. In addition to the thirteen thought-provoking questions, you might also want to talk about what is the definition of family. Some other topics to explore include female friendships, honesty, loyalty, marriage, dating, teenage sex, mother/daughter relationships, and my absolute favorite -- the central theme of "control." So many good things to think and talk about!

If you are looking for a terrific read that will keep you thinking and will also deeply touch your heart, then I highly recommend BETWEEN FRIENDS. Make sure you also check out Ms. Kiernan's guest post!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, jeez, I was anxious to read your review thinking it was coming in a day or two. I should have just kept scrolling down my reader! Nice review. My favorite kind of women's fiction are ones that are NOT predictable. I really want to explore this author!

bermudaonion said...

I just don't understand how someone can be a surrogate mother - I'm not saying it's wrong; I just don't think I could do it. This book sounds like it has so much in it to think about and discuss!

Anonymous said...

I'm about to start this book and it will be my first by this author. I think it will not be my last though. I'm looking forward to it and appreciate your thoughts on Between Friends, Julie.

Jennifer said...

I recently read this book, too (my review will be up April 6) and I absolutely loved it! Such a great story, with some pretty shocking twists!! Great book!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think you're right - this would give one so much to think about! Great review!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it would make a good book club book, I'm putting it on my personal TBR list and possible book club books as well.

Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review! I am very interested in the whole idea of surrogacy - not in doing it, but fascinated at the concept and the stories of the women who do. This one is definitely going on the to-read list!

Beth F said...

It really is such a fascinating topic -- so hard to imagine being a surrogate mother, isn't it. Yet some people can do it.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm reading this now so I didn't look at your review too closely - I'm really liking the book so far though! And I think you and I both discussed how much we enjoyed her other book MATTERS OF FAITH - that WAS you, right?