The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

In The Growing Season, the world is much like it is now, with one major difference. For three generations the FullLife baby pouch has enabled anyone, regardless of age or gender, to affordably and safely grow their own baby. Whether through IVF or naturally conceived, the embryo is moved to a pouch (available in a variety of colours, with optional accessories) with adjustable straps that enables it to be carried by a number of different people. At night the pouch is moved to a custom-made stand, hooked up to an incubator and fed appropriate nutrients. The pouch has become the new standard in childbirth; that is, until a number of tragic deaths create concern that the pouch is not the infallible product that it was once believed to be. With their doubts seemingly confirmed by one of FullLife’s scientists, reporter Piotr and activist Eva search out evidence of wrongdoing, tracing all the way back to FullLife’s now-reclusive founder.

From the above description, you may already have started to come to conclusions about how this novel plays out (I certainly did), but The Growing Season is not a simple good-versus-evil tale. It is, rather, a thoughtful meditation on science versus ethics, opinions versus facts, and the importance of continual debate. It is also a study in one’s convictions and how they are developed and maintained. This is highlighted by the author’s use of multiple points of view; always reminding us of the humanity beneath the characters. As impressive as the scientific and ethical arguments are, it is the moments detailing human connection and loss that are the most moving.

Sedgwick’s writing and structure are assured throughout. I think most readers will be surprised by the ending; it’s perhaps unexpected, but will make you think and contemplate for days after.

Amanda Rayner is the returns officer at Readings Carlton.