Return to Sender by Zoe Barnes

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Return to Sender by Zoe Barnes

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Chloe Spooner
Reviewed by Chloe Spooner
Summary: Holly Bennett is on a mission to find out more about her biological mother, but that isn't the only worry the Bennett family is going through. A warm hearted and enjoyable read about families, trust and love.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Piatkus
ISBN: 978-0749939205

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Holly has always known she had been adopted by her parents, Maureen and Harry Bennett, when she was a baby. But when her beloved mother dies, Holly decides she wants to know more about her biological mother, even though she doesn't know where to start. Her sisters Jess and Grace are a bit opposed to the search, but eventually come around when she meets Private Investigator Phil Connell. Together the pair set out to find Holly's mum so she can put together the pieces of her life, but is it just going to be Holly's roots that the pair discover? Can the Bennett family help not only Holly in her quest, but each other in their own times of woe?

Zoe Barnes is a well known women's fiction author and I've enjoyed several of her books. They are always realistic stories with likeable characters, and her latest offering certainly follows suit. Return to Sender focusses on the issue of adoption and how it affects not only the adopted child, but also their immediate family. Adoption isn't a subject I have come across much in this genre so I hoped that Barnes would do it justice, but not in an unrealistic way that would spoil my enjoyment of the story.

As there is quite an emotional side to the whole plot, it was vital that the reader was able to connect with Holly and her quest to find out about her mother. Barnes approaches this in a believable way, with a good reason for searching which immediately enlisted the reader's support for Holly. She's a very likeable girl who doesn't seem bothered at all that she is adopted, which I think is great. In fact, the only resentment seems to come from her sisters, Jess and Grace, but you can see why they feel this way as the story progresses. Holly does come across as a real person, and her relationships with her sisters, her PI and others in the book are so well written that you can believe they are real which is all down to Barnes' writing talent.

Barnes has touched on the positives and negatives of an adoptee trying to find their natural parents, and it was important that she did this. Of course, not all adoption searches end in a new happy family, and Barnes makes Holly's inner struggles with the decision to search for her mother clear, and with a balanced argument on both sides.

Aside from adoption, the other main thread running through the book is relationships, and how they can survive change. There are lots of different relationships; Holly and her boyfriend Murdo, Holly and Phil her PI, the three sisters, the sisters and their dad, Jess and her husband Kev, Grace and her husband Steve, and these are all well developed as the book progresses. All the relationships go through change in different ways, and Barnes has a great way of getting into the soul of a character and putting into words how they feel. The book was written in the third person which surprised me as I thought this story would work well in the first person, but was equally as great in the third, leaving the reader as an entertained observer.

You can probably tell that I loved this book, and rightly so. It's a great story that kept me wanting to read more, but that didn't aim to come to a sickly sweet conclusion as you might expect. It was a very mature account of adoption and its effects on families, and every issue was well explored. Holly and her family were realistic and great characters - I cared about what happened to them and wanted Holly to find her mum, although I wasn't expecting the eventual outcome. The ending is left totally open for a sequel and I really hope that Zoe Barnes will follow up this brilliant novel with another just as good. Highly recommended, and a very enjoyable read.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Battle for Christabel by Margaret Forster which looks at the adoption process and The Mistress's Daughter by A M Homes, a non-fictional account of what it's like to be an adoptee.

Booklists.jpg Return to Sender by Zoe Barnes is in the Top Ten Adult Books That Teens Should Read.

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