Today I am delighted to finally share my review of Louise Jensen’s brilliant new book, ‘The Gift’ as part of the blog tour.
Gravely ill after contracting a viral infection, Jenna is granted possibly the greatest gift of all – a new heart. She is unable to accept her luck, to believe that she is deserving of this after the pain that her illness has caused, everything it has cost her personally and what it has cost another family in order to be able to grant her this gift. Her parent’s marriage is in tatters, she has turned away from her friends, unable to stand their pitying looks, and she has pulled away from her boyfriend, feeling that by doing so she is setting him free. There is only one thing she wants to help her to understand, to begin to accept her new life – to meet the parents of her donor, Callie, and to give them her thanks.
Her family and friends do not understand her obsession and her therapist and the hospital are against it, but Jenna is undeterred and makes contact with Callie’s family against all of their advice. What she finds on that first meeting are two people who are devastated by their daughter’s death, who simply cannot understand why she was involved in the accident that killed her. Jenna becomes determined to help them, to find out the truth about Callie’s accident. Nothing about it makes any sense and, more than anything, Jenna feels as though she owes them for giving her a second chance of life when they had lost so much.
But it isn’t as simple as Jenna thinks to get to the truth. At every turn if feels as though people are trying to block her, and the more she looks into Callie’s last days, the more she begins to believe that there are many people with something to hide. For Jenna it becomes an obsession, but is it that which is haunting her dreams or is there something else? Something, or someone, compelling her to find the truth.
After reading ‘The Sister’ I already knew that Louise Jensen was brilliant at building tension and suspense in a truly twisted psychological thriller. The question was, could she repeat it? The answer? A resounding yes. Yes, yes, yes. From the adrenaline filled opening chapter you get a sense of where this story is heading, the sense of the peril that someone is in. You … just don’t know who that someone is. Not yet.
This is no ordinary story of a young woman with survivor’s guilt, although undoubtedly Jenna has this by the bucket load. She has guilt over what her illness cost her and her boyfriend Sam. It pushed her to drive him away and since the transplant she has lived a solitary and borderline agoraphobic existence, declining to meet friends for fear of seeing the guilt and pity written on their faces. When we join Jenna, she is about to restart her life. She is about to return to work at the vets, something her parents are wholly against. Most of all, she is about to meet the parents of the woman whose heart now beats within her chest.
It is this meeting with Tom and Amanda, Callie’s parents, which sets Jenna on her quest to find out the truth about the fateful night on which Callie died and she got her second chance at life. From everything she has been told about Callie, about the accident, something does not make sense. Jenna’s desire to help them find closure, to understand, is what leads us into the main body of the story and what a story it is.
The book is full of mystery, full of shady characters who are on the periphery of Callie’s life. Then we have Callie’s attractive fiancé who seems perhaps just a little bit too good to be true. As Jenna looks deeper, she begins to fear her own life may be in danger. And there is a strong chance of that if only because in obsessing over Callie, she begins to neglect her own health. She is quite a compelling character, easy to sympathise with as she struggles to understand why she should get a second chance and she battles her own demons. But this is not all she is battling.
There is a double layer of jeopardy for Jenna throughout which will keep the reader on their toes. But are external factors in play or is it Jenna herself who is her own worst enemy? Louise Jensen has created an element of other worldliness about the book too. Jenna is haunted by dreams, sometimes visions or memories which cannot possibly be her own but somehow guide her towards the truth of what happened. The story explores the idea of cellular memory. That in sharing a heart, Callie and Jenna are linked by more than just tissue and transferred DNA. This is an interesting concept, and not one I’d considered before. It certainly made me think.
This was a really gripping read. Although the pace varies, the tension is always there, the question of what is truth and what is imagined never far from the surface. There are so many twists in this novel that you won’t want to walk away. It is a ‘just one more chapter’ kind of a book, and before you know it you will be at that final, dramatic, gob-smacker of an ending and wondering just how you didn’t see it coming. This is a heart thumping read, and no, that’s no pun.
As much as it is a gripping thriller, there are also the quieter, more poignant moments, particularly where Tom speaks of his daughter, and the scenes where Sam and Jenna are finally honest about how they feel and what they have lost. This is, at its centre, a story of family and the sacrifices they will make all in the name of love. Just… with a twist. A thrillingly brilliant one.
A gripping and heart-pounding 5 stars.
My thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC of ‘The Gift’. It is available now at the following links:
About the Author
Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.
Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.
Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.
Why not stop by one of the other fab stops on the blog tour?