Simran is a social worker in Delhi, reluctantly helping a hospital supplying surrogate mothers to foreigners. When Amelia is born HIV positive and left without parents, Simran is determined to find someone to take care of the vulnerable baby and get to the bottom of her illness. Was it a tragic mistake or is there something more sinister going on? Meanwhile, deliveries of embryos are being held up in customs at Mumbai airport where staff are getting other ideas about the trade of human life.
Origins of Love is essentially, an accessible thriller, highlighting the murky world of medical tourism. From the start, Simran is a fantastic protagonist, the woman defying the social pressures of Indian culture to go it alone and forego children of her own. She relays a heartbreaking story of why she is scared of flying before launching into her investigation. She might lose her way a bit at times, but by then, I was completely immersed in the world of surrogacy and corruption.
There were times that the medical information seemed a bit far-fetched or slightly misleading, simply by the fact it wasn’t expanded upon. I know, that if we forget the ethical constraints of research, would could technically achieve some things, but this book isn’t really about that. It’s a case of hearing lots of potentially interesting stories and trying to fit them into one novel, as she freely admits in the acknowledgements that all the events have been based on real life occurrences.
Still, it whooshes along at a good pace and is an easy book to while away a rainy afternoon. The only thing really out of place is the story of Ben and Kate, trying to make connections to his grandfather and his colonial past. I’m guessing, Kishwar Desai wanted to make a point that the exploitation of India keeps happening, again and again, but it felt all a bit contrived. I think Ben and Kate could have easily been introduced as a desperate couple without any ties to India and contributed just as much, if not more, to the plot.
Origins of Love is published by Simon & Schuster and is currently available in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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