Hollie Hudson is happily married to husband Richard but craves one thing desperately: a baby. It's all she's ever dreamed about since she was a little girl and the fact she's incapable of having a baby is driving her to distraction. After happening upon a leaflet for a surrogate Hollie comes up with the answer to all of her problems: she'll ask her sister Scarlett to be her surrogate. Scarlett, however, is nothing like homebody Hollie and has spent a couple of years in the Amazon rainforest desperate to come up with a solution to stop the rainforest being destroyed. Once PlanetLove, the organisation Scarlett works for, is taken over by a new group, Scarlett finds herself back in England to renew her visa and to try and raise money before heading back to Brazil. After Hollie asks Scarlett to be her surrogate, Scarlett realises she could raise the money she needs sooner than she thinks... Just how far will the two sisters go to realise their dreams?
After picking up Little Miracles by Giselle Green at the book swop one day I set about reading it and quckly fell in love with both the plot and the characters. It was a fantastic read and it intrigued me to read that on the cover of the book Giselle was referred to as the 'English Jodi Picoult'. Little Miracles was quite like a Jodi Picoult book - it had the drama and intensity of a Picoult read and I went searching for other books by Giselle. Giselle herself sent me her first book - which I have yet to read - as well as her latest book A Sister's Gift which I eagerly started.
A Sister's Gift has a very Jodi Picoult-esque plot and the book is quite controversial which I'll discuss more later. Like Little Miracles, A Sister's Gift alternates first person perspective between both Hollie and Scarlett and, like the second book, it works. It gives us insight to what both Scarlett and Hollie are feeling at any given time and it's so good to see the conflicting thoughts of both sisters. At the beginning of the book Hollie is at a charity event in which hundreds of red balloons are released, all bearing a message to any given person. We follow one of the red balloons throughout the book as it heads (or tries to head) towards Scarlett and that gives us our third perspective.
I have to admit that as the book wore on, I found myself getting very conflicted about what I thought about each of the characters. It's incredibly easy to sympathise with Hollie at the beginning of the book and her desperation about not being able to conceive was hugely believable. However as her desperation spirals out of control it gets harder and harder to like her as her suggestions to Scarlett become more and more outrageous. She did still maintain my sympathy but for a while there she wasn't very likable. As for Scarlett I think I liked her but most of the time I found she was hugely selfish in everything she does throughout the book. Everything she agrees to do is only on the stipulation that it helps her in some way and, to be honest, I found it hard to really really like her. Even Richard, Hollie's husband, irritated me. I thought he was fantastic and hugely understanding through the first half of the book but one scene completely changed my mind about him. After that I just couldn't let myself like him anymore. As far as characters go, they were the main three in the book and anyone else mentioned were only minor characters.
The real let down of what was, up until then, a fantastic book came about half way through and it really put me off. Hollie comes up with a crazy idea about how to conceive her dream baby and forces Richard to go along with it. The entire scene was completely off-putting and although it wasn't essentially wrong, it all felt completely wrong and forced. I did wonder if I would manage to carry on with the book but after getting past the entire ugliness of it all I did find myself getting sucked back into the book. The main theme of the book seems to be the idea of what the word charity means. For me though, instead of feeling as everything that happens is charitable I thought it was more pure selfishness. Hollie wants Scarlett to have her baby and no matter how often she denies that she feels Scarlett owes her this, that is how it actually comes across. It does seem that Hollie believes Scarlett owes her this one favour and it smacks of selfishness. Yes, there are reasons behind it all but it's still selfish. As for Scarlett agreeing to have the baby, the only reason she does this is so she can make Hollie sell the cottage they grew up in so she can help save the rain-forest. It seems that there is a thin line between charity and selfishness and I felt A Sister's Gift came under the latter category.
For all the things I've complained about, I did enjoy the book hugely. The fact that I could debate so many different points throughout my review speaks of just how controversial and thought-provoking the book is. It was a fantastic read and I definitely found myself questioning just how far is too far. There were lots of mini plot lines running throughout the book as well as the surrogate storyline. Scarlett's bid to try and save the rain-forest was fairly interesting and to learn what happened to Hollie years ago to make her unable to conceive a child took a while to come out but when it did, it was quite shocking. There was also the long-running unrequited love of Richard that Scarlett holds. It all ties together to make an absorbing read and I read it in two days. The ending, like Little Miracles, is hugely open - even more open than the ending of Little Miracles, actually. While I liked the openness of Little Miracles's ending, I would have liked more from A Sister's Gift. It all ends quite abruptly to leave me to make up my own mind on how it all works out in the end, but I'd have liked just a little bit more to help shape the ending. Whereas the ending of Little Miracles was perfect, A Sister's Gift needed another chapter to tie things together a bit more.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading A Sister's Gift. Giselle Green has opened herself up to a lot of debate/criticism over some of the things that happen in the book and although I didn't agree with what was arguably the most controversial scene in the entire book, I did still find myself enjoying the book. It's definitely a gripping book and although it is slightly similar to Jodi Picoult - the controversy and plot - it is also different - no court cases, for starters. I absolutely do recommend the book but I do attach a note of caution about the scene I mentioned above.
I picked up "A Sisters Gift" in Tesco. I think at the time I was feeling a little hormonal and girly and wanted something that was both sad enough to make me cry and happy enough to make me want to keep reading. I'm not sure why this book spoke to me above others, but I picked it up along with Mike Gayle's "To Do List" and bought them. I intended to read Mike Gayle first as his book looked less 'special' than "A Sister's gift" but it didn't turn out that way for me in the end.
"A Sister's Gift" is about Hollie, a woman who has longed to be a mother, yet has found out that it is not going to happen to her naturally. An indian doctor suggests that she use a relative to help, and this brings her sister Scarlett into the picture. Scarlett is 7 years younger and a completely different person to Hollie. Scarlett is off working in the Amazon while Hollie is diligent and in my opinion living a boring life at home. However Scarlett owes a lot to Hollie, as Hollie practically raised her as their mum was flightly and more or less abandoned them as youngsters with an old aunt.
It is really difficult to know exactly how much to give away in a book review. Hollie's IVF attempts are unsuccessful and when Scarlett arrives back in town she develops feelings for Hollie's husband and when they are to create a baby "naturally" due to the unsuccessful IVF attempts, as you can imagine it tears everyone apart. Scarlett is not really a particularly nice person. Richard, Hollie's husband seems to lack a back bone, and Hollie to me anyway, seems so desperate.
I found myself getting a little bit confused and lost just as the book approaches half way, and at that stage I began to leave it down on a regular basis. It was very tough to relate to either of the girls. Hollie seemed to be a bit unlikeable to me. I just didn't ever warm to her, and I think I was supposed to. She was dull. Scarlett's life in the Amazon and her acquaintences was very confusing. In fact as I write this review I still am very confused about the people that are associated with Scarlett through the book. But I won't be re-reading to get to the bottom of it. Getting to the last page was more than enough for me.
I felt uncomfortable reading this. It never felt right and the quotes from the News of the World saying "'This is a cracking read that will emotionally involve any parent...Exploring the power and strength of love the ending provides more surprise revelations than an episode of Trisha. A must read" or 'A compelling, tragic read, though full of surprises and love.' from The Sun have really baffled me. It seems as though I might be the only person so far who has read it and not enjoyed it. If I had have cared about the characters I should have wanted to jump into the book and give them a good shaking, but I became totally indifferent by the middle/end.
I suppose having read a particularly light hearted and funny book in the days before this one may contribute to my lack of feeling towards it but my rating is poor and it wouldn't be one that I would recommend for people out there, unless they want an entirely depressing, soul destroying read.
Definitely not for me. Life's depressing enough already without dealing with other people's problems!