Review: Someone Else’s Life

[Warning: This review is a bit spoilery. Most of the summary information is revealed in the book’s oficial synopsis, but those sensitive to such things should stay away or read with caution.]

Rosie and Holly are born in the same hospital on the same night. One baby is born sick, on the brink of death, to a mother who desperately wants a child and just tragically lost her husband in a car accident. The other baby is born healthy to a teen mom who runs away from the hospital, afraid of giving up her dreams for a baby at such a young age.

Sarah, a well-meaning nurse, switches the babies. The healthy baby goes with the mother who wants a child, while the sickly newborn is taken to another hospital for intensive care. If the baby survives, Sarah figures it will be adopted anyhow–no harm done.

Fast forward eighteen years. Rosie has just lost her mum to Huntington’s disease and is haunted by the fact that she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the hereditary illness. Sarah, who has remained friends with Rosie’s mum, steps up and informs Rosie that she in fact has no chance of developing Huntington’s. That she is not her mother’s biological daughter.

Armed with a lot of questions, but very little information, Rosie takes off to find her biological parents. Things get more complicated, though, when she discovers that the other baby survived. Holly, too, is eighteen, recently engaged, and pregnant with a baby of her own. Rosie finds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does she have an obligation to tell Holly the truth about their parents? The truth about the potential disease she might be harboring inside her? What if that truth threatens to tear her life apart?

Someone Else’s Life is a rollercoaster ride packed with so many twists and turns that it might lead to some serious whiplash, but it is ultimately thrilling enough that it will result in a desire to jump back on the ride for more. There seem to be a lot of switched at birth stories these days, but thankfully I’m not tired of them yet. Dale’s novel taps into the deep fear that the life we are living isn’t really ours at all. That at any time somebody can step in and shatter all of our beliefs about identity and take away the people we hold dear.

This is a thought-provoking, moving novel that can’t help but make you wonder what you would do if you were put in the characters’ shoes. It questions what it means to be a family and whether honesty really is always the best policy. Fans of Everwood will particularly appreciate this portrayal of characters forced to decide whether or not they want to know if they have Huntington’s disease. Despite its occasionally melodramatic moments, once I started Someone Else’s Life, I couldn’t put it down.

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