Title: The Gift
Author: Louise Jensen
Release date: December 16th 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (I wish I could give more than 5 stars!)
The perfect daughter. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect murder?
Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets …
Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story. Where is Callie’s sister Sophie? She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up. And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.
Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident. But how did she die?Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.
If you were lucky this year, you came across a wonderfully written debut novel by the lovely Louise Jensen. Debut novels are complicated. You put your very first work into the world and hope for the best. Well, Louise didn’t need any hope because she had created an amazing story with a strong atmosphere and well-crafted characters and the book was a success! I was blown away and would not believe this was a debut novel. So when I rushed to her website after I finished The Sister and saw there was already another book in progress, I couldn’t wait to read it to confirm my instinct that her name would find its place among my favorite authors was right.
Now months later, a tweet sent from heaven (or more likely from Bookouture, which can be referred to as Heaven because they have such brilliant books in store) informed me that my wait was over. I said goodbye to my weekend plans and settled on the couch with The Gift, Louise Jensen’s second baby.
Never had I been so happy to break my ARC request ban.
Jenna received a heart after hers failed her. Many people don’t get this chance. But is a heart the only thing Jenna got from her donor?
Jenna is a character I warmed to instantly. Her heart condition had made her forget the life plans she had and left huge scars on her mind as well as her body. She had to give up so much to keep living and she doesn’t even feel like she’s actually living. Her raw emotions and thoughts we spot-on but how so difficult to bear. Because it is not just about a heart. Everything in her and around her has changed so much. I found Louise Jensen’s portray of Jenna, with her struggle, her anxiety about life and what’s in store for her now, so good it felt as if I were the one who had been through the transplant. My heart ached for all that Jenna had to give up and all that she had to deal with.
But there is so much more to the story that the usual transplantation issues patients must face. All of those sudden changes caused Jenna to lose her balance and she wrestles with a strong traumatic syndrome, expanding the gap between the young woman and her family, friends, and job. She doesn’t feel like herself anymore, and she believes finding out more about where this new heart comes from might help her building her new self. Because Jenna doesn’t believe in herself any more, the guilt is heavy on her shoulders and every the day dark clouds of a possible relapse and the sense of time running out hovers over her head.
Every line, every page of this book makes you aware of just how lonely, afraid and anxious Jenna is. Louise puts her character through her darkest time where the only solution is to know more about Callie, the previous owner of the organ Jenna now carries, because the answers must be there. Jenna needs them to be there. It is impossible for most of us to understand just how disturbing going through this experience is, but Louise gives you a very powerful and raw idea of what it must be like.
When Callie became an obsession for Jenna, I started to worry. Obsessions are never good, no matter the situation, and here, everything sounded so extreme, real and scary that I couldn’t tear myself away from the book. I just had to know where Jenna would stop. If she would ever stop. And of course, where it would lead her.
We all have our reasons for doing the things we do, don’t we? The lies we tell. We are all a mixture of good and bad, and I don’t think anyone is entirely one thing or the other.
Let me tell you that Louise Jensen has done her homework. Because as if getting someone’s heart wasn’t scary and difficult enough, she throws in a case of Cellular Muscle Memory. Don’t worry if you only have a vague idea of the subject. You’ll soon be fully aware of what it is, what it does, and how accurate it can be. Trust Louise on this! Imagine this: what if in addition to a heart, you also received memories, feelings, dreams and tastes. How would you feel? I know I would be scared witless! I found the way it was introduced to the story so subtle and plausible, as if Callie slowly insinuated herself into Jenna’s life, replacing her maybe. Those new feelings fueled Jenna’s need for information. Finding out more about your donor is a natural reaction, but you never know what you will find on the other side. And boy I was not prepared for this. Neither was Jenna.
Meeting Callie’s family is heart-breaking but so important for Jenna, who expects to get a glimpse of Callie’s life to find the path back to her own life. But instead of easing her pain and struggles, suddenly the world appears darker, questions are raised, and Jenna is left with a new goal – to find out what really happened to Callie. When Jenna realizes some things don’t add up, she sees an opportunity to make something right for her generous donor. It is the least she can do, right? After all, she carries on living because Callie’s existence was ended. But unearthing secrets can harm the living in so many ways.
Jenna is not alone in this. I truly enjoyed how multi-dimensional every character was. The way the sub-plots skillfully interweaved with the main story was clever and brought so much to the book. Because life is never simple and it’s never about one single thing. Her parents’ issues, her work at the vet clinic, Callie, her therapist, they all added a layer of authenticity, of realism, of life. I particularly liked Sam. His love for Jenna knows no bounds. Having such a person in one’s life is both a treasure and a curse in this case.
My favorite thing about this book is that Louise managed to transport me again with her brilliant writing by adding a cinematic vibe to her story. I mentioned how The Sister felt like a movie to me, where one scene was replaced by another as I was going through chapter after chapter. The same thing happened with The Gift. I could feel the warmth of a hand, the rain on my face, the pain in my chest. It was a movie. I was in the movie. This is a feeling I don’t get a lot, and I am over the moon to have been able to find it again here.
I spent hours turning pages as if my life depended on it and the last chapters delivered beyond my expectations. The ending was absolutely satisfying and made this journey a hundred percent worth it. My book hangover is not over yet, I carry Jenna’s story with me, along with the powerful feelings this book stirred in me.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture through NetGalley. This review is my eternal thanks to Louise Jensen and her fantastic publishing company.
When I was little I was obsessed by Enid Blyton. Her characters were so real to me they became my friends. I often huddled under my covers, stifling my yawns and straining my eyes, as I read ‘just one more page’ by torchlight.
Mr Townsend, my primary school English teacher always encouraged my love of literature, and it wasn’t long before I’d read everything my school had to offer. The first book I created was six pages long, had stick-man illustrations and was sellotaped together. I was immensely proud of it. Writing was a huge part of my life, until one day it wasn’t.
I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision to stop writing but it became easier to act on the advice I was given – ‘grow up and get a proper job’ – and my dreams were tightly packed away, gathering dust for the next twenty years.
My thirties were a car crash. Literally. I sustained injuries which when coupled with a pre-existing condition forced me to radically change my lifestyle. I felt utterly lost and utterly alone. Always an avid reader I began to devour books at an alarming rate. ‘You’ll have read every book in here soon,’ my local librarian said. ‘You’ll have to write your own.’
And there was a flicker, a shift, a rising of hope. I grasped that nugget of possibility and I wrote. I wrote when I was happy. I wrote when I was sad. I wrote when I was scared and in-between writing, I read, read and read some more. Words have the power to lift, to heal. They have illuminated my world, which for a time became very dark.
As Anne Frank said ‘I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.’
From Louise Jensen’ website that you can find here.