A baby is only the beginning - a new spin on the IVF process

Lives in Limbo by Victoria Louise Hill

I love being put in touch with new authors, and I was lucky enough to be put in contact with the talented Louise Hill a while back, and to read her first novel Lives in Limbo. As soon as I heard the premise, I was so intrigued.

Hill describes it best: ‘You had fertility problems. You went through the IVF process. You have your longed-for family. But you also have additional embryos in storage. What will you do with them?’ This story explores each of the options available to parents in this heartbreaking situation. Such an unusual topic to cover, in a fiction book especially.

I certainly don’t know of many books on this topic and from Hill’s careful research, the question of what to do with left over embryos after IVF treatment sounds like an important issue that affects a  surprising amount of couples. An issue that I, and probably most of the population simply don’t come across. Call me naive, but I have never considered there was that much to the IVF process once a baby is born.  So, if the purpose of this book is to generate thought and discussion, then this is mostly certainly been accomplished. It certainly highlights the lack of resources and support for couples going through this tough decision so hopefully, if anything, it may start the process of getting more in place.

As a work of narrative however, be prepared to pay close attention. The scene switches between characters quite rapidly, so you don’t know where you are or who you are with for a few sentences, and unfortunately it does take you out the moment. And with the amount there is to cover about each of these families (history, relationships, their current situation) it means that these switches happen quite a lot.

That being said, I did like the idea of each option of what to do with the embryos being explored in depth, which is what the amount of characters did allow. However, it may have been better to do this with a few characters as possible. For example I felt like I really didn’t need so much of the book dedicated to 13 year old Alice, who disagrees strongly with her parents on what they should do with their spare embryos. Although I do understand the need to explore the impact of the decisions on other family members, she just came across as unnecessarily argumentative and judgemental (which I suppose most teen girls are!) and I found myself siding heavily with her parents that the decision really isn’t her business. Perhaps not the thing to take away from that plot line that Hill was going for!

Conversely, I would have happily read a whole book about married couple Harry and Elsie Hunter. Their decision is especially hard, with the option of doing what’s best for their family situation being at odds with their strong Christian faith. I loved every single chapter featuring this family. Elsie’s struggles with her mental health issues are told with so much sensitivity and empathy, it’s absolutely beautiful. Despite some of the differences between myself and the Hunters I really felt such an affinity for them throughout the whole book, due mostly to the fact they were written about such a touching, in-depth way.

Overall, this is the sort of book that proves once again that we should be investigating unknown authors. There is so much talent out there, and this story shows people have so much to offer about a topic that we wouldn’t hear about normally. This story will make you think about this deep and complex issue in ways you never would have before.

Additionally, the Kindle edition is available for only £1.99 on Amazon. This is to celebrate the gorgeous new cover available. It’s for five days only, so hurry!

Find out more about Lives in Limbo here or check out Hill’s website.

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