There are millions of infertile couples around the world who would do anything to have a baby. But how far is too far? That’s the question at the core of Austin Boyd’s NOBODY’S CHILD, the first in a series labeled by Zondervan as The Pandora Files, which explores the bioethical choices made by society today.
In this story, 20-year-old Laura Ann McGehee, whose mother died when she was young, just lost her father, too. Now she may lose the one thing she has left --- the family farm. Finances are tight, even with her stool-making business. And making matters worse is Uncle Jack, who beats his wife with his fists and everyone else with his words, and is out to steal the land out from under Laura Ann’s feet. But she is determined to do whatever she can to save the farm --- even if it means selling her eggs to a fertility clinic.
"Whatever your stance is on this issue, Boyd has succeeded in crafting an emotional, thought-provoking story in NOBODY’S CHILD."
A pregnant stranger shows up on her doorstep and introduces herself as Sophia. Before she can tell Laura Ann why she has come, a storm rolls in and Sophia is forced to stay at the farm, due to flooding. Laura Ann can’t help but feel drawn to this woman. But when Sophia informs her that Laura Ann is the biological mother of the baby she is carrying, the mixed emotions Laura Ann experiences is overwhelming. She is torn between guilt over what she did, and awe at the thought that she helped give this woman what she has desired for so long --- a baby. That is the reason Sophia has come: to thank Laura Ann for her courage and sacrifice. It is because of Laura Ann that Sophia is able to realize her dream of becoming a mother.
Then comes the real twist. This is something that changes the story --- and ultimately the course of Laura Ann’s life --- forever.
Laura Ann is an interesting main character. She’s young, but very mature and responsible for her age. Boyd does remarkably well getting inside the mind of a young girl. Laura Ann is portrayed with a good mixture of determination, spunk and vulnerability.
I loved Sophia from the start, due to her openness about her past mistakes, her gratefulness to Laura Ann for giving her the “gift” of a child, and her generosity (shown later in the story). Two other secondary characters are worth mentioning. With no children of her own, Granny Apple is an old and wise woman who has always been in Laura Ann’s life and tends to her even more, now that her father is gone. Ian Stewart is a police officer and childhood friend who now wants to be more than a friend to Laura Ann. He offers her a chance at love…and a future.
The book got off to a slow start for me. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I found myself more invested in the characters and their journey. I haven’t read any of Boyd’s other novels, but this one is very colorful. In other words, many pages consist of lengthy setting description and internal prose. Things move along at a slow pace, which may have been what the author was going for. It certainly allows time to process the heavy topic of the story.
That said, one thing this book will do is make you think. While no “side” is technically taken regarding the question of lab-induced life, there are a few clear takeaways: Choices have consequences; issues aren’t always black and white; God can always bring beauty from ashes. As Laura Ann says to Sophia in one particularly touching scene, “Whatever we’ve done, God hasn’t given up on us.”
Whatever your stance is on this issue, Boyd has succeeded in crafting an emotional, thought-provoking story in NOBODY’S CHILD. Watch for more bioethical books in the Pandora Files series coming soon.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on January 18, 2012