THE SURROGATE by Judith Henry Wall


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A surrogate-for-hire runs for her life in the latest from Wall (A Good Man, 2005, etc.).

Jamie Long is desperate. Orphaned at six and estranged from her half-sister, the college dropout is mired in credit-card debt incurred while nursing her dying grandmother. An ad answers her prayers, offering $100,000 and a lifetime income to bear a child for gorgeous, pushing-50 televangelist Amanda Hartmann. The secrecy surrounding her artificial insemination with sperm from Amanda’s current gigolo/husband/personal trainer Toby is normal, she is assured by the Hartmanns’ lawyer. So is Jamie’s isolation at the family ranch in a remote stretch of the Texas Panhandle. Housekeeper Montgomery handles all of Jamie’s correspondence with the outside world—or not. Amanda’s diminutive brother Gus, a kingpin who runs the Hartmann oil/Christian Voter Alliance/lobbying enterprises with Soprano-like ruthlessness, reluctantly endorses Amanda’s scheme to fake pregnancy so that her devotees will assume she has birthed her own miracle child. The inseminating sperm was actually harvested from Amanda’s son, who was supposedly killed in an ATV accident but is actually in a vegetative state, being kept alive in a secluded tower of the ranch. Nearby lies supposedly bedridden matriarch Mary Millicent, Amanda’s predecessor in charismatic preaching. Secretly ambulatory and thoroughly versed in the generational curses of the Hartmanns, Mary sneaks out to warn Jamie that once Amanda “delivers,” the presence of the surrogate will be considered problematic. And Gus has no scruples about eliminating problems—like Amanda’s first husband, for instance. Jamie flees, has her baby alone and goes on the lam. After a near-kidnapping, she reunites with childhood crush Joe, making for a steamy sex-on-the-beach scene with no babysitter in evidence. Handily evading Gus’s thugs, Jamie and Joe call Amanda’s bluff in public and hope she’s more susceptible to scandal than most televangelists. By then, the plot’s banality has surpassed even the conventions of melodrama, with no redeeming depth of character.

Suspense at the expense of credibility.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-5851-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2006


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