Monday, 14 September 2015

'My Sister's Child' by Caroline Finnerty.

I received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...

Sisters, Jo and Isla, are like chalk and cheese.  Jo is the elder of the two.  She is the responsible one.  Always top of the class, ahead in her career, clever with finances and settled in her family life.  Isla is flighty, carefree and unambitious.  However, Jo owes her younger sister some credit for her perfect life.  If it wasn't for Isla her life would be incomplete.  Fourteen years ago, Isla gave her the most precious gift in the world.  The chance to have a baby.  With the help of her donated eggs, Jo and her husband managed to conceive their only child, Realtín.  Their family unit complete, the sisters continue on their well worn paths, albeit in different directions.  All this changes when Isla begins to  dream of becoming a mother herself.  Now she is the one with infertility problems and she needs her older sister to help her out.  Tensions are fraught and the two women each believe they have all the answers.  But do they?

The fourth novel from Irish author, Caroline Finnerty, this is a novel with one big decision at its core.  Does one good favour deserve another?  Is a mother the one who shares the child's DNA or the one who raises her?  Does a child need to know how they were created?  So many questions that have one meaning in legal terms and another in real life.  The author uses two main protagonists as a way of examining this quandary.   Jo is the high-flying, career woman that has devoted her life to being at the top of her game and micro-managing her family.  Losing her mother at a young age, she spent most of her childhood looking out for her younger sister, whether she liked it or not.  She still believes she knows best, and when asked to assist Isla in her fertility journey, she is not ready to compromise.  Isla, on the other hand, has always felt like she was in Jo's shadow.  Not academically gifted, she is more the arty type, and is quite content waiting tables in a local café.  She doesn't see the need for a man in her life, a mortgage or all the other trappings of adulthood.  She does have a longing for a child though, and feels her sister should help her out.  The reader is given both sides of the story and the sister's dilemma becomes more about their past than their present.  There are flashbacks to their difficult childhood and many insights into their opposite worlds.  

Similar to a Jodi Picoult novel, this is a book that will have the reader wondering what they would do if in the same situation.  Unfortunately there is no court case, which could have added some extra-zest, but with Irish law changing recently, this means the book won't date.   Isla's long-term goals are not really an issue for her and most 39 year old women, considering pregnancy, would like to plan how becoming a mother would change their lives. But Isla is free-spirited and I'm sure we all know someone just like her.  While Jo becomes an anti-heroine very quickly, further into the story we discover why she is so regimental and a tad bitter.  Realtín is not the nicest teenager and it seems unlikely that she would not have a friend or two to confide in.  No friends calling to the house, no mention of texts, snapchats or facetime.  There is also a element of unhappiness in Jo's marriage that could be attributed to Jo's superiority complex and her need to control her daughter and their home life.  Her husband, Ryan, never gets a chance to voice his unhappiness.  There are many marriages like this, in the real world, and often the children side with the more 'fun' parent.  The supporting characters are minimal, with Isla having her work colleagues to banter with but no such luck for Jo, who it seems has no adult companionship at all.   This can also be the case for the full-time working mothers out there.  Ryan seems to escape occasionally, but not Jo.  No date nights for the couple either.  All aspects of Jo's world that her daughter may not notice.  Teenagers see what they want to see.  While Isla's world looks like so much more fun than Jo's, looks can be deceiving.

Caroline Finnerty is well able to hold her own among the top female fiction writers, like Cathy Kelly and Sheila O'Flanagan.  She knows how to use ordinary words to create moments of beauty.  The mundane can be magnificent and she can transform the unstructured moments of a day into ripples of stunning sentences.  While the pace is a little slow, there are some poetic moments which carry you through the opposing, yet connected, lives of two very different sisters.  Much like real life...

My Sister's Child is published by Poolbeg and is available in paperback and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 16% discount, here.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: 

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