Seven-year-old Leo lies in a hospital bed, comatose, after a seemingly minor accident followed by surgery. By his bedside, his mother Nova recalls the moments of their lives together. But once upon a time, long ago in her own childhood, she and her best friend Mal were like two sides of one coin. Their bond was strong and one that they thought would never be broken.
Through flashbacks, we see the journey of Nova and Mal, how they gradually forged separate lives in their adulthood, while still maintaining a very strong connection. When Mal met Stephanie, however, things changed—just a bit. And when he married her, Nova knew that their relationship, with its strong friendship bonds, had morphed into something else—a friendship that now included the three of them.
The collision course that severs the connections between them begins when Stephanie and Mal want a baby, but Stephanie cannot have her own; they know that adoption will not be possible because of Stephanie’s history and emotional problems. They approach Nova, asking her to carry their baby. After much thought and considerable anguish, Nova agrees.
Eight years later, Nova is raising her son Leo alone. What happened and how did everything go wrong?
Answering those questions fills the pages of this compelling novel that probes below the surface, peeling back the layers to finally reveal the hidden motivations that altered all of their lives.
Will Mal finally meet his son and join the others at his bedside? Will his presence heal the wounds? And will the tragedy finally change the future for all of them?
The characters were richly detailed, with all the flaws and strengths of real people. Sometimes I felt very frustrated with each of them, as their inability to clearly communicate their thoughts and feelings to each other led to the breakdown of their relationships. None of them revealed the complete truth. When Mal told Nova that he and Stephanie had changed their minds about the baby, he would not (or could not) tell the whole story. When Stephanie said she no longer could take the baby, the reasons she gave were not completely true, either.
And afterwards, while Nova was raising her son alone, she didn’t share any of the details with her family, her husband Keith (whom she married after her son was born), or even her closest friends.
Told in the first-person narrative of Nova, and then Stephanie, we gradually come to understand each of the women. Alternating first-person voice is not unusual, but in this novel, each chapter began without anything to identify whose “voice” was spotlighted. Sometimes it took two or three paragraphs to figure it out, which altered my enjoyment of the story. The flow was not as smooth as I would have liked.
Because of this somewhat confusing writing style, I decided to award four stars. I would still recommend it to anyone who enjoys tales of friendship, family, and the defining moments that change our lives.