My Mother’s Daughter by Ann O’Loughlin - book review: The answers are both intriguing and thought-provoking…

My Mothers Daughterby Ann OLoughlin
My Mothers Daughterby Ann OLoughlin

Can a mother’s love for her child ever be broken… even when she discovers that her child belongs to someone else?

A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades and her fourth, and most powerful, novel yet was inspired by a 2015 French court case involving two children who were swapped at birth and whose families unwittingly raised each other’s child.

Exploring the emotional realities of a baby swap dilemma, O’Loughlin weaves a compelling and insightful story of two families – one from County Wicklow in Ireland and the other from a small town in Ohio in America – facing their worst nightmare.

My Mother’s Daughter explores how we cope not just with undreamed of devastating situations but the other, more familiar life events that push us to our limits… divorce, death, grief, illness and the loss of close and trusted relationships.

At picturesque Rathmoney House in County Wicklow, Margo Clifford has just lost her beloved husband Conor to cancer and is struggling to cope with her grief, unsure how she and their precious daughter Elsa will survive without him.

What has made matters worse is that on the day Conor died, she received a letter that turned everything she thought she knew on its head. Lawyers in America want her and Elsa to undergo DNA tests to determine if Elsa is actually the child she gave birth to in a French hospital twelve years ago.

Not only has she lost her husband, but now Margo fears she could lose her daughter as well because, as her solicitor warns her, ‘the can of worms has been cracked open and we all have to deal with it.’

In Ohio, Cassie Richards has separated from her husband Charles who is determined to play ‘hardball’ over their acrimonious split. Upset, angry and alone, she does not know how she will move forward without the man who had been her childhood sweetheart.

When Charles demands a paternity test for their 12-year-old daughter Tilly, who was born in Europe before they returned to Ohio for ‘the simple life,’ she is stunned to discover that Tilly has no ‘genetic link’ to either of her parents.

An investigation at the hospital in France where both girls were born reveals that they were indeed swapped and now Cassie faces the frightening possibility of losing her daughter too.

O’Loughlin tugs at our heartstrings in this beautifully imagined tale of two very different mothers, both in anguish over the shocking news that their babies had been swapped at the hospital, but both determined to protect their daughters and support each other through the tough times that lie ahead.

Brave and resilient, Margo and Cassie must find the strength and resolve to put the pain of events in the past behind them and look to a future in which the two young girls in their care are given the love they desperately need, and the understanding which will help them to move forward.

Sensitively written and packed with the author’s natural warmth and wisdom, My Mother’s Daughter asks some difficult questions. How strongly does upbringing influence identity in the lives of two girls given to the wrong parents, and which is more powerful… nature or nurture?

The answers are both intriguing and thought-provoking…

(Orion, paperback, £8.99)