Review: Rescued, by Donna Dawson

Rescued, by Donna Dawson (Word Alive Press, 2010)

Daphne Barrie won’t survive her pregnancy—and she’d rather die with her baby than make a hurried choice she could regret for a lifetime. Desperate for another option, she pushes for a chance at a radical new procedure that would transfer her microscopic embryo into the womb of a healthy recipient, Charlene McTaggart.

Embryonic micromanipulation has been a reality in livestock for years. Rescued is Donna Dawson’s exploration of what it might mean if it were possible for humans.

This is clearly an “issue” novel, but Donna Dawson is too skilled a writer to let it slide into propaganda. And it’s a look at an alternative to abortion—not an argument for or against abortion itself. Both pro-life and pro-choice readers will find it interesting as long as they’re comfortable with a book where some of the characters talk about their faith.

Daphne and Charlene are thinking, feeling characters who draw reader empathy. The supporting doctors, the helpful reporter and the tabloid hack all have parts to play in exploring the ramifications of such a radical procedure. And the extremist villain whose goal is to eliminate the “abomination” that is Daphne’s/Charlene’s developing baby shows another side to the picture—and keeps the tension high.

In places the book is very technical as the doctors try to help the public and their patients (and readers) understand the procedure. It’s also a poignant look at a teen who knows she’ll never deliver a baby and a woman who had lost hope of ever being pregnant. The bond that grows between them is touching, and it strengthens them both.

Because the novel focuses on the one key issue, we don’t get much of a feel for the supporting characters, including Charlene’s husband. We do get to see pro-choice and pro-life activists working together for a common goal.

As the novel points out, human embryonic micromanipulation would need careful regulation to protect against things like black market embryo sales and inept surgery. I think it’s worth doing, and I’m a bit angry that the medical and research community hasn’t already been working for this.

Industry professionals have said that a procedure like this could work. “Possible but cost-prohibitive” is what one source told the author. The cost of research and development would be high, but what’s too high a price for an alternative to abortion?

The emotionally-volatile argument would continue, because some would still choose abortion and others would oppose that choice, but what if there really could be another option?

Rescued is an informative and thought-provoking novel. The first part is more human interest: the fight to save Daphne’s life. The second part is more suspenseful: the fight to protect Charlene’s life as the religious extremist increases his pressure. With short chapters and a fast pace, it’s hard to put down. The only negative is that it didn’t have enough copy-editing, and readers who notice these things will at times be jolted out of the story.

Canadian author Donna Dawson is an award-winning novelist, speaker, writing instructor and the creator of the popular writing advice blog with Duke the Chihuahua. She’s also a singer. Rescued is her fifth novel. You can watch a video interview with Donna at Talk On The Way. Here’s a link to the trailer for Rescued.

[Book provided by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. A shorter version of this review first appeared in Faith Today’s online July/August 2011 issue.]

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