Random House Australia
Sisters of Spicefield by Fran Cusworth Summary
The modern family comes with all sorts of blendings and combinations. Jessica stared at her from head to toe, lost in her legs, her hair, her eyelashes, her cheeks. How was she supposed to feel? What on earth was happening in this world if you could suddenly be introduced to a six year old child who was your biology, your blood, the descendent of your ancestors? How were people not meant to care? How on earth had she ever thought she would not? Jessica and Matt Davidson, professional, middle-class Australians, have four beautiful children; three from IVF. When they donate one leftover embryo, it’s a gift of thanks to the world for their luck; an offering to the fates. Seven years after this gift, the Davidsons have lost their youngest child Eeny to a genetic condition, and the family is struggling with this grief. Jessica and Matt’s relationship is strained; their relationship with their oldest child is fraught, and beneath these tensions flow the currents of anger and shame connected to Eeny’s death. A new girl starts at the children’s school, and Jessica realises that this child, Mia, is her biological offspring; the embryo born of she and Matt’s donation years before. As Jessica’s daily life continues, marked out by the rhythms of her zoo vet job and of the children’s school days, she finds herself drawn to this look-alike child, and overwhelmed by a desire to care for her, especially as she sees Mia’s home life is difficult. Gradually Jessica becomes entangled with Mia’s mother Carolyn, a damaged woman who spots Jessica’s vulnerability and hits on her for money and help. Jessica answers these appeals, and her reward is to be granted some time spent caring for Mia, where the child gets to know the Davidsons and to feel part of a wider family. Jessica’s twin sister, Abby, lives in Chiang Mai where she works in an orphanage for abandoned children. Abby’s life has always been about helping the poor, and while the two sisters’ lives are very different, they remain close. Jessica and her closest friends Georgia and Maxine have formed a benevolent fund to raise money for the orphanage and to give themselves an excuse to meet regularly and share details of their lives and be reminded of their good fortune. Jessica’s growing obsession with Mia – and whether or not Mia can be called her daughter or the sister of her other children – creates friction with Matt, her children, her sister and friends as well as Carolyn, Mia’s mother. Exploring the big issues – who gets to decide/comment on/directly influence – the parenting and care of children. Can we push aside the tug of a biological bond, or not, can we create a bond where there isn’t one? And, ultimately, celebrating family of every kind.