Friday, October 11, 2013

Leaving Haven by Kathleen McCleary

The blurb:
Georgia Bing and Alice Kinnard have always been there for each other.  Eager to help her best friend have another baby after several miscarriages, Alice donates one of her eggs.  When Georgia learns she's going to have the baby boy she's always wanted, she's thrilled - until a devastating discovery destroys her dreams.

While Alice is happy to help her friend get pregnant, she also fees a twinge of disappointment that her own life is missing something. . .  something she desperately craves.  On the surface, Alice has everything - a busy social life, a great job, a faithful husband, an amazing teenage daughter.  But her well-ordered world is knocked off its axis when she's tempted by motherhood that sustained her.

As the safety of their past is shattered, Georgia and Alice must each embark on a journey of self discovery - an odyssey filled with surprising challenges that will test them and force them to confront the truth of their lives. . . and the choices that they make.

Leaving Haven struck me most as a story of the friendship between Georgia and Alice.  The women have a 13-year age gap but became mothers at the same time and have taken different professional paths. Georgia is the motherly, professional baker with her own cake company and is married to John, a sous chef at a top restaurant.  Alice is the practical, steady friend who works as an economics professor and is married to Duncan, a steady, quiet lawyer.

Georgia is longing for a second child and has spent seven years trying expensive fertility treatments with little success.  The years of trying for their second child causes much tension between Georgia and John.  As a supreme act of friendship, Alice offers to donate an egg to Georgia.  Georgia's problems don't end when she becomes pregnant.

While Georgia is carrying the biological child of Alice and John, things become crazy.  Their young daughters  had grown up together, almost like sisters, but hitting their early teens, the girls begin to fight.  Liza had always seemed a little more grown up but at thirteen the differences between the girls leads to darker things. Georgia's daughter  Liza has started to bully Wren,  Alice's daughter.

Alice doesn't want to trouble Georgia during her difficult pregnancy and reaches out to John for help resolving the issues affecting Liza and Wren.  In the past John and Alice had never paid each other much attention, but the problems between their daughters somehow brings them together - and endangers both marriages.

In Leaving Haven, McCleary introduces us to complicated, nuanced, and deeply sympathetic characters in impossible situations and makes the characters and their dilemmas relatable.  Somehow, it is possible to understand how and why the marriages and friendships are harmed and to hope for their repair.  Overall, if you are looking for an escape through women's fiction and a story of friendship I'd recommend Leaving Haven.

  • ISBN-10: 0062106260 - Paperback $10.98
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 1, 2013), 352 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Kathleen McCleary teaches writing at American University.  A former columnist for, Kathleen's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA WEEKEND, Good Housekeeping, More, Health, and Ladies' Home Journal.  She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

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