Female friendship, surrogate motherhood, and a custody battle over a child unborn: a debut with the trappings of a three-hanky read.
Joanne and Darla have been friends, more like sisters, ever since they were nine. They’re so close, in fact, that Joanne has agreed to carry a baby for infertile Darla. But things begin not with the excitement of imminent motherhood, but with Joanne’s car crashing through the wall of Darla and her husband Cal’s home. At the hospital, it’s found that Joanne is brain dead but that the baby is fine and healthy. As Darla tries to understand what urgency compelled Jo to drive over to her house in the middle of the night, Jo’s estranged parents drop a bombshell: they’re suing for custody of Jo’s unborn child. But as the biological father, Cal has ultimate rights over the child, and the courtroom drama loses suspense accordingly. The method of insemination (Cal did have sex with Jo) and Darla’s past relationship with a priest (still, he was only in high school when they dated) are introduced as questionable or risqué activities in an effort to prove Darla and Cal unfit, but the muckraking is far too unsensational to sway either a legal decision—or the reader. More interesting is the psychological damage Jo’s accident creates: Darla and Cal’s relationship begins to fall apart as Darla becomes obsessed with Jo’s frantic last day. The more Darla discovers, the less she seems to know about her best friend. Sexy, untamable Jo was being counseled by a priest, was considering a religious life, was planning to move away after the birth. But the biggest surprise of all is the truth about Jo’s relationship with her parents, a passive mother and a violently tempered father who was more caring and complicated than Darla could have imagined.
Solid if melodramatic first outing: Page is best when addressing issues head on—without the unnecessary trope of courtroom suspense.