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December 7, 2021

The Surrogate by Toni Halleen ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

A probing novel about a newly married couple, the surrogate they hire to carry their baby, and the unexpected consequences of their decisions. 

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Surrogate
November 2021; Harper; 978-0063070073
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); women's fiction

Once you start this debut novel, you won't want to put it down until the end. It takes place in the early 1990s at a time when surrogates were a new way to have a baby, there were no cell phones and it was easier to disappear!

Ruth is a journalist in her early 40s. She wasn't interested in getting married until she met Hal and there were immediate sparks between them. After they got married and she became part of his family with his unfriendly two teenage sons, she decided that she wanted a baby. She was unable to get pregnant so she and Hal, a lawyer, decide to use a surrogate and find Cally, a healthy 19-year-old who wants to go to college but doesn't have the money. Hal draws up a contract that should cover all aspects of using Cally as a surrogate and the money that they give to Cally will be enough for her to go to college. The pregnancy goes well and Ruth is excited when Cally goes into labor. Once the little girl is born, Cally begins to wonder if she made a mistake. She feels very close to the baby and isn't sure that she can give the baby to Ruth and Hal. Cally calls her ex-boyfriend and asks him to pick her up at the hospital and when he gets there, she puts the baby in a duffel bag and climbs out of the window. Ruth and Hal get a call from the hospital that Cally and the baby have disappeared and they start to desperately search for the baby. Cally has no real plan and no experience in caring for a baby. Her ex-boyfriend is appalled when he finds out that she has stolen a baby and wants to go into hiding.

The story is told from alternating points of view from Ruth, Cally, Hal, and Cally's ex-boyfriend...but it was mainly a story about Ruth and Cally. As I was reading, I went back and forth over who should have the baby and how the story should end. There were times when I was on Cally's side and then my opinion would switch and I'd have sympathy for Ruth.

My only complaint about this book is that the ending seemed a bit rushed. Overall, it was an interesting story that asked the question about what makes a family? It's more than just blood but also made up of the people you love and want to take care of.

This is a fantastic debut for Toni Halleen and I look forward to her future books.

Buy The Surrogate at Amazon 

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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