*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: After Tiffany is orphaned on the night of her 18th birthday, she discovers, as the sole heir to her parents’ estate, she has inherited a frozen embryo from when they did IVF to have her.
Feeling lost, alone and longing for a sense of family, Tiffany can’t bring herself to destroy or donate the embryo. Instead, she decides to be impregnated with her biological twin. A legal battle ensues over whether the embryo is a person or property and the ethics of whether it is acceptable to give birth to your own sibling.
Set in Australia, this contemporary fiction novel is full of emotion, dilemmas and unexpected friendships, as Tiffany forges a new life without her parents.
From the blurb, I was expecting a Jodi Picoult-style ethical dilemma novel, and from about halfway through the story it briefly is. However the true focus of Only the Lonely is less the issue of whether Tiffany should implant her sibling embryo, but of how she copes with her sudden bereavement and whether she can find a way to embrace life again after her loss. I would have enjoyed more prominence on the embryo court case earlier in the story, as I felt that was the main conflict in the book and was waiting for it to emerge.
For the majority of the story, we follow Tiffany through approximately a year of her life – from the joy of her 18th birthday celebration, through the loss of her parents and her subsequent journey through the grief stages, two important court cases, and finally to some sort of acceptance and moving-on, as the court cases conclude and Tiffany begins to look to a future without her parents’ deaths overshadowing her every decision.
This is ultimately a novel of personal growth, including some ethical issues (What is justice for a life taken too soon? Whose rights take priority: parent, embryo, or ‘guardian’?), some romance, and lots of anger and sorrow. The writing is simple and direct, showing the reader Tiffany’s thoughts and feelings as she attempts to navigate this difficult life crisis, and the hope that once the initial turmoil subsides a new purpose can emerge.
Whilst I empathised with Tiffany’s situation, I found her something of a difficult character to empathise with, as she seems quite cold and distant from the feelings and experiences of others around her, and only really relates to others through their meeting of her own feelings and needs. This is quite possibly a result of the tragedy affecting her character, but as it happens very early in the story (meaning we don’t get to know her beforehand), it created a distance for me, that prevented me from fully experiencing the full emotional heartbreak of the events described.
This would make a great book club pick, for the issues it covers (justice, revenge, abortion, IVF), as there is plenty to discuss and some strong views are expressed through the course of the story. Fans of dilemma-novels will also enjoy this, as long as they are prepared for the build-up beforehand!
Dave and Sandra wrapped Tiffany in a double hug and each of them kissed her cheek simultaneously. The ‘Tiffany Sandwich’ was what they had called their group hug since she was a toddler. Tiffany cringed as she tried to extricate herself from her parents’ embrace. She didn’t want to hurt them, but as an adult, she didn’t really want her friends seeing her squished between her parents.
– Joanne Nicholson, Only the Lonely
Only the Lonely is available on Amazon right now!
I was lucky enough to host a guest post by Joanne earlier this year, which you can check out here.