I’m very excited to be able to share an extract of Let Her Go by Dawn Barker on my blog today. I would like to thank Ellie Pilcher for being so understanding when I was unexpectedly admitted into hospital and was unable to fulfil my day on the blog tour. I would also like to thank all the lovely bloggers for their well wishes and support during my hospital stay, it was really appreciated!
Let Her Go is currently 99p on eBook!
Could you share your child with someone else?
Zoe wanted a baby more than anything. But her dreams will come at a price…
After years of struggling to conceive, Zoe and her husband face the prospect of never having a family. When Zoe’s stepsister, Nadia, offers to be a surrogate it presents the perfect solution. A healthy girl, Louise, is born.
But no one imagined just how hard it would be to know someone else was also mother to your child. As the pressure on Zoe and Nadia mounts, they make choices that there is no going back from.
Years later, Louise is in desperate need of her family’s help. Can they put their painful history aside to save the child they love so much?
Don’t miss this explosive and moving drama. Perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse, Kelly Rimmer and Kerry Fisher.
Zoe turned to look out to sea. She hunched over so that her chin covered the head of the baby held against her chest, as if they were one being, as if she could make enough room for the child to simply melt into the space in front of her heart, where no one could ever take her away. Is that how it would have felt to have borne her? She wanted to lock Louise in a place where she could stay exactly as she was now, a baby, oblivious to the world around her, where she would know that Zoe would never let her go. It didn’t matter about Zoe’s sister, or even her husband, not when it was just the two of them.
She pulled her long grey woollen cardigan around Louise, huddled in the baby carrier. Zoe’s hair whipped around her face, wet strands writhing in the blustering sea wind and clinging to her damp cheeks. She held the cardigan closed with one hand; with the other, she raked back her hair, twisted it and tucked it into the back of her collar. She knew she should take Louise inside, out of the wind, but here on the deck she could at least stare at the horizon and hope her nausea would settle. She didn’t want to vomit. There was no one to hold the baby while she bent over and retched. Besides, she hadn’t thought to pack spare clothes in her carry-on bag, and even the suitcase in the crate on the back of the ferry held only the few things she had quickly thrown in.
The ferry was lifted by a wave, then seemed to pause in the air for a moment. Zoe looked over the edge at the trough in front of them, deep and black. The boat began to tip forward. She grabbed the handrail as her stomach lurched; the boat rolled and slammed into the ocean’s surface, the impact reverberating through Zoe’s bones and teeth. She breathed through her mouth, trying not to smell the noxious engine fumes. Leaning her head back, she tried to breathe the fresher air above her, but the nausea rolled around her head and throat, threatening to spill over. The last time she had taken this ferry, years ago now, she’d thrown up all the way back to Perth into white paper bags, with Lachlan rubbing her back. The gagging had been tolerable then: it was proof, proof that the baby was there, inside her. The day the nausea had stopped should have been a relief, but she had known it was too soon, too sudden. Just one of her many failures to hold onto a child.
She focused on the horizon again, waiting for Rottnest to come into view. On a clear day, she could see it peeking over the edge of the Indian Ocean as she drove home from the city, travelling parallel to the long stretch of white beaches towards Fremantle. Some days, if the conditions were right, the island would shimmer, multiplying into two, sometimes three islands perched on top of each other, wavering in the blue sky. When they were kids, Nadia used to tell her that the mirage was a trick played by the spirits of all the prisoners who had died on the island over the years, frozen, starved, ravaged by diseases alone in their damp cells, or those who’d been eaten by the great white sharks when they tried to escape. Nadia would say it was the spirits’ bait, their siren song to lure boats in and smash them on the coral reefs. She said that the prisoners’ voices were trapped in the shells scattered on the island’s beaches, and that if Zoe held one to her ear too long, she’d be cursed. Zoe used to lie awake on the bottom bunk of their holiday rental, sure she could hear them singing, chanting above the whispering of the waves lapping on the sand: hush, hush, hush. She’d cross her fingers, hoping that the skippers of all the boats out on the ocean would see the lighthouse, that they wouldn’t end up wrecked in the bay.
The ferry pitched; Zoe grabbed the rail again. The metal was cold, slippery with spray. She moved her feet into a wider stance, trying to let her knees bend and sway with the boat, keeping her torso – and the baby – still. Holding the rail with one hand, she pulled Louise’s
pink knitted hat down more securely over her head. The ocean in front, behind, all around, seethed and churned. Even in summer, when the water was turquoise and calm, Zoe had never liked swimming too deep. She needed to be able to plant her feet on the bottom, on sand. Not in weeds that swayed with the tide, not on rocks that hid poisonous spines of fish and stinging tendrils of jellyfish.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her free hand; it came away damp, her tears lost in the drops of salty, sticky brine that coated her stinging cheeks. She looked behind her, through the glass doors, streaked with salt water, to the interior of the boat. There were only a few others there: a tall, thin man wearing headphones and a fluoro jacket, slouched in his seat staring out the window, nodding his head ever so slightly to the music in his ears; a middle-aged couple trying to take pictures through the window while the boat lurched; a woman with dark curly hair pulled tightly off her ruddy face, chatting to the ferry attendant near the bar.
Zoe stumbled again as the ferry reeled to the right. Was that port or starboard? Lachlan would know. She corrected herself: Lachlan would have known. It had been so long now since he’d gone out to fish or to pull the craypots.
Facing ahead, she watched the island come closer: the white beaches, the jetty, the lighthouse. Patchy sand swirled in the wind and was strewn over rocks jutting out from the shore. Zoe wanted to cry out for someone to help her. She didn’t want to be here on her own. But what else could she do? She took a deep, shuddering breath. Anyway, she wasn’t alone, she reminded herself, she was with Louise. Her daughter. Her daughter.
The ferry slowed and manoeuvred towards the jetty. Zoe staggered back inside, holding her breath against the musty smell of permanently damp seats, then teetered down the steep steps to the ferry door. She waited behind the tourists as the attendant let down the ramp, then walked carefully down the slippery gangplank with one hand on Louise’s back. The wind roared; Zoe shivered. To her left, the beer garden of the wharfside pub was empty, the plastic chairs turned upside down and tilted against the tables. She looked back towards the ferry and watched the staff unloading a bundle of newspapers and magazines, the corner of a paper cover flapping against the plastic cord holding the sheaf together. They unloaded crates of beer and wine, bottled water, bread. Bicycles.
Zoe swallowed and looked towards the mainland. On the skyline she could see the colossal red cranes at the port of Fremantle and the Norfolk pines of Cottesloe Beach, where she’d stood so many times in summer to watch thousands of swimmers leap into the water to swim the twenty kilometres that the ferry had just travelled. Lachlan had done it once, one of a team of four. She thought back to his face yesterday: the hatred in his eyes, his clenched jaw as he stood over her. Did he even know she was gone? Probably not; he’d assume she was still at her parents’ house. What would they think when they realised? And Nadia? Would they try to bring her back? Zoe tried to quell her fear, reminding herself that they didn’t know where she was.
She took her phone from the back pocket of her jeans and glanced at the screen. Lachlan hadn’t called. She told herself that she was relieved, but what she really felt was disappointment. She clenched her fists, feeling her nails dig into her palms. She was not going to be one of those women, making excuses for their husbands. He had ruined everything: now Nadia had what she needed.
Zoe hoisted the nappy bag over her shoulder, and for a moment rested her cheek on the top of Louise’s head, feeling the scratch of her woollen hat. Darling Louise. Nadia was not going to take her away, not now, not after everything they’d been through.
She watched the luggage being loaded into a van, one of the few vehicles on the island; they’d deliver the bags later. Zoe started up the slope towards the visitor centre to collect the keys for her rental. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping they weren’t too swollen or red. Oh yes, the staff would say when someone came looking, there was a woman with a baby, on her own. She’d been crying. Taking a deep breath, she increased her stride. No one would think to look for them here. She just needed some space, some time to work out
what she was going to do. About Lachlan. About Nadia.
About The Author:
Dr Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She studied Medicine in the UK before moving to Australia in 2001 where she completed her psychiatric training – winning the RANZCP’s Maddison Medallion in 2009 – and began writing.
In 2010, Dawn’s first novel, Fractured, was selected for the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre’s manuscript development competition and it was published in 2013 in Australia. It was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles, and was shortlisted for 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. It has also been published in Turkey and Poland.
Her second novel, Let Her Go, was published in July 2014 in Australia, and has now been published in Turkey, Poland, and the UK in May 2017.
Dawn has written non-fiction for various magazines and websites, including Good Weekend, Mamamia, Essential Baby, Quartz, Artlink and the Medical Journal of Australia.
She is an experienced public speaker and has spoken on writing, mental health and parenting at conferences, writers festivals, television and radio.
You can listen to Dawn here talking at a live storytelling event at Sydney Writers Festival, later broadcast on ABC radio’s Now Hear This and Life Matters show.
Dawn lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and three young children. When not working as a psychiatrist or writing, you might see her running and listening to audiobooks.