The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

This was a powerful and poignant tale about discovering the real meaning of family, parenthood and love.

Two women. Two children. One swap.
Tess and Annie both went for IVF at the same clinic, at the same time. They both went home with a child, but that child isn’t theirs. Their embryos were mixed up, and they went home with the wrong child.
Three years later they discover the devastating error. Tess wants to swap the children back while Annie doesn’t, so they embark on a hard journey of discovery about themselves, motherhood and family.

*warning: minor spoilers*

I loved this. I thought it was really inspiring and gave a lot of food for thought about what family really means. It makes you consider what it takes to create and build a family, about nature vs nurture and the love a parent has for their child.

Tess was such a painful and heartbreaking character. She had pain and grief etched over her throughout the novel, but it wasn’t clear why until quite far through, and it was emotional to see how much the events of her past have affected her relationship with her children in the present. Her sheer desperation to have a relationship with her daughter who was born to Annie was really intense. It made her so frustrating to read at times, as she made some potentially destructive choices throughout. This, however, is what made her such a ‘real’ character, it’s what made her story so heartbreaking to read and it really intensified her story, gripping the reader even more.

Annie, the other mother affected in this story, seemed to balance on that thin line between judgmental and concerned. At times she was annoying, because she seemed to be assuming things about Tess’ relationship with her son that weren’t completely true – although Mitchell did offer a rather intense and revealing insight into the way that the assumptions Annie made can easily happen. Annie starts to questions the relationship she sees between Tess and Freddie, convincing herself that something isn’t right – yet Mitchell really digs deeps into this to show the various layers and emotions that are involved between Tess and Freddie. Families are incredibly complex, and this book really highlights this in such an effective and emotive way. Apart from this, Annie’s relationship with her daughter Willow was really sweet, yet it was clear that she was being torn apart by the discovery that she actually had a son. In some ways she seemed more vulnerable that Tess, but she turned this into a strength, and coped with the discovery admirably.

The two children themselves were adorable – they seemed unaware of what was happening in their lives and the massive potential changes that were happening, but they also weren’t oblivious. Willow’s obvious distress at times around Tess was sad to see, but completely understandable. Freddie’s anger and frustration really heightened the emotions in various situations, but the times in the book when he was quiet and subdued were even more upsetting to read. They were written so well, especially considering they were in some ways the focus of the novel, despite it being written from the perspective of the mothers.

The journey that the two mothers went on was really insightful. It was such an interesting look at family and motherhood, and I felt the ending was exactly as it should have been. It provided a sense of calm after a truly rocky journey, but at the same time, it hinted at irrevocable change and acceptance that would benefit both mothers and children.

I loved this book, it’s stayed with me long after I read it and would definitely recommend it!

The Swap
Fiona Mitchell
Hodder & Stoughton, 18th April