Aussie Book Review: Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

Let Her Go  Let Her Go by Dawn Barker


Uncorrected Proof Copy provided by publisher

Hachette, June 2014

 Synopsis- How far would you go to have a family?
What would you hide for someone you love?

Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.

Years later, a teenage girl, Louise, is found on the island, unconscious and alone.
Flown out for urgent medical treatment, when she recovers she returns home and overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they’ve made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family and, for Louise, nothing will ever be the same again.

LET HER GO is a gripping, emotionally charged story of family, secrets and the complications of love. Part thriller, part mystery, it will stay with you long after you close the pages wondering – What would you have done?

Review- Dawn Barker has brought another powerful novel to the shelves. In Barker’s debut novel Fractured, I was left feeling a little fractured myself. The issues explored were powerful but also overwhelmingly sad. I was left with little hope at the end of the story.

While Let Her Go also evoked many emotions in me including grief, sadness, frustration and compassion; when I finished the novel I wasn’t left feeling devoid of all hope- thankfully!

In Let Her Go, Zoe McAllister faces yet another setback in her life, after struggling with lupus (an autoimmune disease) since her adolescence she receives the news that she is infertile and unable to carry a baby. She is devastated. Her husband’s support and condolences do nothing to reprieve the guilt and overwhelming sense of loss she is experiencing. With her husband’s mining job taking him away for more than half of each month, Zoe feels alone and unworthy.

So no one is more surprised than Zoe when her step sister and mother of three, Nadia, offers to be her surrogate. Zoe’s husband is apprehensive, as is Nadia’s husband, but both the women seem pretty set on their vision to create the family Zoe always dreamed of.

What Barker does so well, and is no doubt influenced by her psychiatric training, is create characters who are likeable yet flawed, who present with strength and determination on the surface and who have a wealth of uncertainties, fears and doubts lingering deep below. The undercurrents of the relationships in this story is so realistic it’s scary. I think that’s what I love and dislike about this story. Everything feels so real and yet it’s quite hard to face the true array of emotions humans experience when placed in a pressurised situation. From infertility to surrogacy, to relationship breakdowns, alcoholism, domestic violence and adolescent self-harm- this book doesn’t shy away from the big issues. Not to mention the number of ethical dilemmas that’s highlighted in the story!

Working in the perinatal field myself I could not only see elements of my clients and their mothers, but also facets of my own social network and family history. It’s the kind of book that makes you think a lot. Perhaps that’s why I’m typically drawn to romance and happily-ever afters! Work is where I do all my thinking… reading is my escape! In essence, Let Her Go is an easy read because its characters draw you in and there’s a subtle flow of suspense that propels the book forward. And yet it’s a difficult story to read because of its realness.

Let Her Go is well worth the read and is guaranteed to keep you thinking about the issues raised well after you’ve closed the book. Highly recommended.

Overall Rating


“Highly Recommended!”

Let Her Go can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:




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