Whoa! Talk about a doozy of a debut. Daniela Petrova’s Her Daughter’s Mother is a suspense thriller with intricately drawn characters, wily plotting, and a topical story line that draws from the deep well of complexities involving a woman’s desperate desire to give birth.
Lana Stone, associate curator at a New York art museum, has suffered three miscarriages and endured eight costly in vitro fertilizations. She is about to try an egg donor cycle when her personal life is upended when her longtime partner, Tyler, tells her, “I can’t take it anymore,” and walks.
Stunned by his surprise move, Lana decides to undergo a final treatment anyway. And lo and behold, she winds up pregnant.
Tyler’s sperm fertilized an egg from Donor CN8635, a 21-year-old graduate of an Ivy League school who is also Bulgarian. The latter is important to Lana, since her own mother is Bulgarian, having defected from Communist Bulgaria in the ’70s. If she can’t pass along her own genetics, at least Lana can borrow the genetics of her mother’s homeland.
Though Lana has seen a photograph of her donor, along with the pertinent background facts, the process is otherwise anonymous to stave off possible complications. After all, notes Lana, “There are crazy people out there.”
But there she is, riding the subway one evening, when she chances to see a striking young woman who stands out in a hot-pink sundress. Lana immediately recognizes her from the photo she’s seen; this is her egg donor.
Her subsequent befriending of pretty Katya Dimitrova sets in motion a series of events that neither woman, nor Tyler—still a major player in the story—nor the reader, could anticipate.
What follows includes a disappearance, a mysterious death, NYPD investigators, accusations of all sorts (including infidelity), and revelations about an act from the past and a desperate need for atonement. What better peace offering is there than a child?
Chapters alternate between the three main characters’ points of view. But it’s not until the wrap-up that the novel’s finely threaded intricacies of deception and manipulation crystalize.
By the time the last page is turned, readers might be tempted to start all over again—with heightened awareness—taking in the lies, the love, the desperation, and the mania that drives baby love.