The good: A lot of thorny issues thrown up, plus I just loved Claire.
The not-so-good: My schedule just didn’t allow me enough reading time to devour this book!
Why I chose it: I will read anything Rachael Johns writes. (NB. I was gifted an eGalley, but I bought the book myself).
Publisher: HQ Fiction (Harlequin)
Setting: New South Wales, Australia
Rating: 9 out of 10
Rachael Johns. I feel like I say this with every book she writes, but I will follow her writing to the ends of the earth and back again, no matter the genre. She is a writer that I get. Her books never fail to impress me in their skill in telling a story, tugging at all of the heartstrings and considering issues in a new light. Of course, The Greatest Gift is no exception!
The story could be categorised as general fiction/women’s fiction/life lit or you could just say it’s a great read. It involves two women – Harper, a woman certain she doesn’t want kids and Claire, a woman who desperately wants a child, but can’t. Harper is a successful radio interviewer/host and her husband is a lawyer determined to climb the career ladder. They don’t have time for children – really. Claire and Jasper can’t have children because she’s infertile post childhood cancer, but Claire knows that it could happen. She just needs an egg donor. Harper is becoming restless, wanting to do something good like the people she interviews. Why not donate her eggs? Claire and Jasper seem like the perfect couple.
Of course, not everything goes to plan. I was truly shocked at some of the twists and turns! I certainly didn’t see them coming. (Consider yourself warned if you like to read into the night – you WILL be reading longer if you hit one of these crucial points). Harper and Claire were like chalk and cheese to me, even though they are both good people. Claire is radiant, she practically shines off the page. For all she’s been through, she has a determined, optimist attitude. She’s the friend who would never let you down. Harper was a bit more complicated for me. I liked her, but sometimes her actions weren’t all that likeable. She appeared simple and straightforward on the surface, but she had a lot more issues going on underneath which are gradually revealed as the story goes on. I suppose the unmasking of this kind of shattered my illusion that Harper was a 100% good and sweet character. Her reactions on reflection are perfectly normal, but they kind of shocked me at the time. It’s actually this conflict that really got me involved with The Greatest Gift – until the big shock and the aftermath, the story had been cruising along for me. But as everything that was meant to happen failed, I wanted to know exactly what was going to happen next. It was unpredictable and I loved it – blind twists and turns are definitely my thing.
I shouldn’t neglect the main male characters either. Jasper and Samuel are Claire and Harper’s husbands respectively. They too are complete opposites (except when it comes to determination in completely different fields). Jasper is the dream guy. He’s warm, genuine, kind and accepting. Yet he’s also flawed, but in way that does get redeemed. (I’m not going to spoil the surprise). Samuel should be the ultimate Man™. He’s terrifically good looking, intelligent, career driven, good in bed etc. …but he’s also a bit boring. He can be cranky, self-indulgent and just plain mean. As time went on, I wondered what Harper saw in him and wondered if that was enough to sustain a relationship.
Apart from characters I could analyse for pages, there are a number of other fascinating parts to The Greatest Gift. One is Jasper and Claire’s occupation as hot air balloonists. It’s not really something I’ve thought too much about before, but reading about what was involved was really interesting. Harper’s radio career was also interesting for the amount of preparation that was involved. Of course, the biggest thing was the moral dilemma that emerged partway through the story – who is wrong? Who is right? Or is it just shades of grey?
As always, I really enjoyed Rachael Johns’ latest novel. The Greatest Gift proves that she can turn her keyboard to any topic and make a story that is both beautiful and heart breaking.