This Beating Heart by Laura Barnett (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) is described as ‘a novel about motherhood, second chances and choosing your family’. This Beating Heart is a very personal novel for Laura Barnett as the book highlights the impact of IVF treatment. Laura and her husband were lucky to give birth to their son after just one round of IVF so she is very much aware of the emotional effect it can have on a relationship and on the individuals involved.
“I became preoccupied by how statistically unfavourable the odds were; by how very possible it seemed that our dream of becoming parents would never be realised.” – Laura Barnett
Christina is now in her forties. Her marriage is over and Christina is bereft. All around her couples are in happy relationships, with children and living in homes of their own. This too was Christina’s dream but all hopes were dashed, following five unsuccessful rounds of IVF and a number of miscarriages. The trauma took its toll on her marriage with her husband Ed and their world came crashing down. With days that had become completely centred on her cycle, the romance had slowly slipped away and their love for each other faded into the background. An opportunity for a fresh start had arisen with a years contract in The States for Ed so he called time on their marriage and packed his bag.
Christina has two best friends, Emma and Jen. The three have been inseparable since they met in college. Now Emma is happily married with children and Jen is a single mother. Christina loves her friends but is jealous of their lives and the fact they are both mothers, something she is unable to achieve. But Christina does have one last chance of sharing parenting with Ed. There is one frozen embryo remaining in the clinic, which means the possibility of one final round of IVF. Christina must persuade Ed to give his permission for the treatment to go ahead but she is very very nervous to ask him. What if he refuses her request? Is that it? Is that her last chance of motherhood swept away?
Christina’s mother, now widowed, despairs for her daughter. Her beloved aunt, Dinah, despairs for her niece. Jen and Emma despair for their best friend. Christina is miserable. Unable to focus on her work, she wanders the area letting her mind imagine the possibilities, the what ifs. Her obsession takes over her every thought until finally she works herself up to ask Ed but what happens next changes everything…
This Beating Heart is a very emotive read due to its subject matter and with Laura Barnett’s own personal experience of IVF. Christina Lennox is a wonderful character. At forty-three, she is well aware that her options for motherhood are fading fast. Her desperation at times is truly heart-breaking yet her steeliness also shines through. Christina attempts to find a path that she can navigate, one that will offer her the life she craves. With her amazing support network she makes some astonishing discoveries about herself, about her future and what might just make her a happier version of herself if she is prepared to think more creatively. The love of family and friends is central to This Beating Heart demonstrating their importance in all our lives. Inspirational and uplifting are the words best used to describe This Beating Heart. Emotional and extremely affecting, Laura Barnett has written a beautiful tale about starting over again in midlife and being willing to take second chances.
(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)
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