The Gift of Life (Josephine Moon, Michael Joseph)
In her latest novel, Josephine Moon poses the question, ‘How much of the original donor travels with their donated organs?’ The story follows Gabby, the recent recipient of a heart transplant, who is trying to move on with her life after the operation. However, Gabby’s life is interrupted by a stranger who is convinced that the heart once belonged to her husband. For storytellers seeking emotional catalysts, this concept isn’t original. However, treading a well-trod path is not, in and of itself, an issue—it just presents the challenge of finding a new way to create an emotional arc. Unfortunately, The Gift of Life does not succeed in breathing new life into a tired plot point. The story leans into sentimentality and glosses over areas of grit—and also of potential nuance. Moon introduces several areas of friction, even outside of the fundamental—and often spiritual—interrogation of organ donation, but they are under-explored and unexploited, creating little opportunity for reader engagement. The neat, complete epilogue also creates missed opportunities for reflection. Readers who have enjoyed Moon’s previous books will surely be disappointed with the lack of emotional resonance, but those seeking an unchallenging read for an afternoon will appreciate the easiness of the writing and the contemporary representation of family.
Kate Cuthbert is program manager at Writers Victoria