Book Review: The Gift of Life by Josephine Moon

The Gift of Life…

About the Book:

You’ve been given the gift of life, now go live it.

Gabby McPhee is the owner of The Tin Man, a chic new cafe and coffee roasting house in Melbourne. The struggles of her recent heart transplant are behind her and life is looking up – until a mysterious customer appears in the cafe, convinced that Gabby has her deceased husband’s heart beating inside her chest.

Krystal Arthur is a bereaved widow, struggling to hold herself and her two young boys together since Evan’s death, and plagued by unanswered questions. Why was her husband in another city the night he died? And why won’t his spirit rest?

Krystal is convinced that Gabby holds the clues she needs to move towards a brighter future. Gabby needs Krystal to help her let go of her troubled past. The two women must come together to try to unlock the secrets in Evan’s heart in order to set free their own.

By the internationally bestselling author of The Chocolate Promise, this is a profound and moving novel about the deeper mysteries of love and loss – and the priceless gift of life.

My Thoughts:

‘There it was, beating away, pumping her blood, keeping her alive. Someone else’s heart. A heart full of nerve cells that had lived inside another human being from not long after conception to their time of death. A heart that might have travelled the world. Fallen in love. Been betrayed. Been educated. Indulged. Danced. Lied. Cheated. Gambled. Recovered. Swum in foreign oceans. Rock climbed. Painted. Loved horror movies. Craved friendships. Felt, seen or experienced a million things that Gabby never had.’

What a novel this one turned out to be! I had fairly high expectations of this being excellent, I’ve read Josephine Moon’s previous novels, but this story still managed to catch me by surprise. The extent of my engagement with the process of organ donation to date has been to tick yes on my driver’s license and make it clear to my husband that this is what I want in the event of my death. I’ve never had to go through the process of donating a loved one’s organs (as yet), and I’ve also never had to deal with the recipient side of things. So everything I read in this novel was fairly new to me. It’s such a deeply personal decision, with such wide reaching effects, and I think that Josephine Moon has crafted a story about this with the utmost sensitivity and insight. The Gift of Life is a special novel that contains a valuable and well-balanced presentation of both the benefits and difficulties of organ donation, offering insight from both the donating family and the recipient.

‘She rinsed the breakfast bowls, thinking about the scar that ran down Gabriella’s chest, imagining what it might look like, wondering if it was straight or jagged, an ugly purple or fine white. She wanted to see it. It would be an exquisite horror, a breathtaking pain, to see the line, the incision, and know that Evan’s heart was just there, centimetres below. Krystal craved that pain. It was sick, clearly. Probably something like deliberately cutting herself with a knife.’

Gabby is the recipient of a heart and two years on, has begun to feel the presence of her donator through sensory experiences and vivid dreams. Krystal is the wife of Gabby’s donator and is desperately seeking answers that will help her understand why her husband was in another state when he died, instead of up the road at his job. A newspaper article in which Gabby accidentally discloses the date of her transplant provides the catalyst for these two women meeting. There is a lot of mysticism woven throughout the narrative and it does require the reader to let go a bit and just go with it. Everything Josephine has written is backed by anecdotal evidence, but even so, it could still be a leap for some. I don’t have a problem with this sort of storyline though, where souls linger and pass on messages, where people can be caught ‘in-between’ life and death. I think that if you’re brought up with any sort of religious influences, ideas of souls and the afterlife are pretty much par for the course. I found myself heavily invested in this story, the plausibility of it not a stretch at all. It’s fascinating, but also a bit frightening, to think that the recipient of a donated organ might feel, smell, see, taste and remember things the way the original owner of the organ might have done. I’m not too sure about visitations by the spirit of the deceased donator, but in this case, within this story, it all worked for me.

‘Not only did Gabby have Evan’s heart, she had his memories too. His memories! The one thing that should have been exclusive to Krystal was her memories of Evan and of their lives away from his interfering family or his toffy friends or even the friends they’d shared at the restaurant. The one thing she had to offer her children were memories. And now a stranger – another woman – could lay claim to them.’

Needless to say, The Gift of Life is a highly emotional story. But it’s a beautiful one. Josephine Moon deftly handles the minefield of issues and difficulties associated with such a delicate topic. I really felt so much compassion for both Gabby and Krystal, their burdens and pain, their hopes for their future, and their mutual need for answers from Evan. They were both wonderfully flawed, so realistic, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. This novel is perhaps the lightest from Josephine in terms of her trademark food-lit slant, and while I missed the deliciousness of her previous novels, there is plenty here about coffee, all of which I knew nothing about prior to reading. I had no idea, for example, that the coffee beans themselves can be flavoured; I thought the flavours just came from the syrups added during the brewing process. I’m pleading tea drinker status here, I don’t drink coffee at all, so I guess it should come as no surprise that everything to do with coffee was new to me. The Gift of Life is one novel I highly recommend, far and wide. Despite the gravity of the themes, the characters are terrific and there are plenty of moments of sunshine and laughter. This is above all a very hopeful read, up-lifting and insightful.

‘We’ll give up drinking and we’ll spend our money on disgusting, healthy green juices or something.’
Krystal shuddered. ‘We don’t have to do that, do we? Couldn’t we spend our money on imported cheese or something?’
‘Yes! Even better.’
‘All right, done. Cheese it is.’


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Gift of Life for review.

About the Author:

Josephine Moon was born and raised in Brisbane, had a false start in Environmental Science before completing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and then a postgraduate degree in education. Twelve years and ten manuscripts later, her first novel The Tea Chest was picked up for publication and then shortlisted for an ABIA award. Her bestselling contemporary fiction novels are published internationally. They include The Tea Chest, The Chocolate Promise, The Beekeeper’s Secret, Three Gold Coins and The Gift of Life.
In 2018, Josephine organised the ‘Authors for Farmers’ appeal, raising money to assist drought-affected farming communities. She is passionate about literacy, and is a proud sponsor of Story Dogs and The Smith Family.
She now lives on acreage in the beautiful Noosa hinterland with her husband and son, and a tribe of animals that seems to increase in size each year. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

To find out more about Josephine Moon and The Gift of Life, read my interview with her here.

The Gift of Life
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released on 2nd April 2019

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gift of Life by Josephine Moon

  1. Another one on my pile I can’t wait to get to. I’m glad you enjoyed it, I read a review saying they felt the mystical part was too much, but I think I’ll love it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s