Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan
Best friends since they were very young, Ali and Cora have shared a lot together. Nothing, though, can top the fact that they share a daughter. Ali always wanted to have a child. She knew that, for her, life would be incomplete without motherhood. Unfortunately, Ali discovered that she was unable to have children on her own, even with fertility treatments. Her only choices became adoption or IVF. Carefree Cora never felt the maternal instinct herself, but she did love her friend dearly. Almost on a whim, Cora offered to donate eggs so that Ali and her husband could have a child, and the result is Letty, their miracle baby, one of the first children born from IVF.
Fast forward to the present day, Letty is a very sulky 15 year old and, although Ali and Cora are still great friends, they talk only occasionally and see one another even less frequently. For the first time ever, Cora comes back into town without calling Ali ahead of time, so their relationship when they meet again is somewhat strained with Ali wondering what is wrong and whether Cora is mad at her for something. Cora, however, is not angry, but afraid. Things have changed for her, and she fears telling Ali about her new circumstances may change their relationship forever.
I really enjoyed “Between Friends.” I loved the exploration of the bonds of friendship and motherhood. Ali clearly was Letty’s mother, even though they were not biologically related. She carried Letty in her womb, nursed her, raised her. Cora’s relationship, however, was somewhat more precarious. Although Cora provided the biological material necessary for Letty’s life to begin, she had never been around much during Letty’s childhood, instead following her job all over the world. At the same time, Cora and Letty had so many similarities both physically and in temperament.
Kiernan did a fantastic job bringing these three women to life; each of the three was allowed to tell a part of the story from her point of view, and all had unique voices and personalities. She also has a great deal of skill in bringing in tragedy or sadness where appropriate without making the whole thing devolve into pure melodrama, which I appreciate. I like reading women’s fiction, but I don’t want to read something that is excessively emotionally manipulative. This subject matter could easily have gone down that road, but Kiernan masterfully kept the whole thing in this side of good taste.
I will definitely be reading more of Kiernan’s work. Highly recommended.