The Greatest Gift…
The poignant, heart-warming story of a woman who wants nothing else than to be a mum, and one who never wanted to be a mother.
Mother: Female parent of a child
Mum: The woman who nurtures, raises and loves a child
Radio host Harper Drummond lives for her glamorous career. Every day she meets fascinating people doing extraordinary things, but has begun to wonder whether there’s something more for her out there. She’s financially secure, happily married and loves her job — what more could she want from life? An interview with a childless couple prompts Harper to think about whether she could make a contribution. She and her husband, Samuel, know they don’t want a child in their lives, but could she help someone else become a mother?
The childhood cancer that left Claire Beggs infertile doesn’t matter to her husband, Jasper. He loves her unreservedly, and they are passionate about their thriving hot air balloon business in the Hunter Valley. Despite their contentment, Claire is desperate to have a child — she knows Jasper would be a brilliant father and doesn’t want him to regret choosing her over a family in the years to come. An egg donor seems to be Claire and Jasper’s only chance of a happy family.
Can they find someone who will give them the greatest gift?
The Greatest Gift is a truly remarkable story, a rare example of a perfectly balanced novel. The deepest of sorrows meets joyous hope in equal measure within its pages and consider yourself warned when I say: pack some tissues. Deeply moving, in so many ways, The Greatest Gift will have you shedding a tear even if you think you aren’t a person who normally cries while reading a book. And it’s not that this is a sad, depressing read; quite the opposite. There is so much hope and beauty, but the very ‘real’ aspect of this story is what will have you reaching for the tissues. This is life in words and Rachael Johns is fast proving herself to be a master when it comes to this style of storytelling.
What I loved so much about The Greatest Gift was the way Rachael took a single idea and then built an entire world from it. She gives her characters interesting careers, so in addition to the story itself wrapping you up, you find yourself fascinated by what the characters do for a living. Hot air ballooning! Absolutely incredible. I loved reading about all of the aspects associated with the hot air ballooning business – not to forget the history as well! – and while this has always been an activity I’ve wanted to do, reading about it in this novel has made me want to bump it to the top of my bucket list. And while I learnt a lot about ballooning from this story, in no way did Rachael ever ‘fact dump’. Everything she wanted us to know was woven so well into the narrative that you hardly even noticed that you were getting a run down on the industry. Likewise, with Harper’s radio show; another interesting career, where we got to dip our toe into something fascinating without it overshadowing the main event.
Another area that Rachael excels at within this novel is how she doesn’t shy away from including lots of characters. There was a whole host of wonderful – and not so wonderful, but still very realistic – characters within The Greatest Gift, their various supporting roles elevating this novel and securing it as a truly entertaining and enjoyable read. There was also a distinctly Australian feel to the story that I appreciated immensely; kind of a Wrong Girl meets Offspring blending with Monica McInerney. Just delightful! I found the 400 pages slipping away effortlessly as I read all day long (the joys of being on holiday) and deep into the night.
What really secured this novel as a firm favourite for me though, was the way in which it examined the many different faces of motherhood. Told with sensitivity and intelligence, Rachael peers beyond the veil of what it means to be a mother, deconstructs that ideal, and builds it back up again with a contemporary view. Science has done much to enhance women’s chances at being able to conceive and bear children when they would have otherwise not been able to. I found Claire’s situation within this story quite moving but as you read on you see that there is so much more to this novel than one woman giving a gift to another. Rachael explores mothers and the influences they have on our lives, both good and bad, and I found myself personally relating to so many things within this story; it was deeply touching and entirely relevant within the context of society today.
The end of this novel contains a poignant surprise that I absolutely adored. Serendipity in action. I highly recommend The Greatest Gift as the perfect present for the reader in your life this Christmas. Just make sure to put it onto your own wish list so you also get a copy! Don’t be fooled by the pretty pink cover with those cute daisies; The Greatest Gift will ring you dry as well as fill your heart. It’s a truly beautiful novel and I congratulate Rachael Johns on her achievement and thank her dearly for giving us The Greatest Gift.
Thanks is extended to Harlequin Enterprises for providing me with a copy of The Greatest Gift for review.
The Greatest Gift is book 60 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
The Greatest Gift will be released October 23rd. You can pre-order the novel now by visiting Rachael’s website and selecting your preferred retailer.