|Susan Gable has written a tale with a twist. She handles the sentiment well, crafting a well-drawn story with enough emotion to be powerful, but without sinking into major melodrama. Not all writers can pull that off but she does so in The Family Plan.
Dr. Amelia Young, a chiropractor, had one failed marriage and did not want to risk another. She decided to use artificial insemination to have the child she always wanted. Her plan was successful and she has enjoyed her life for the past twelve years. But then her daughter Jordan develops a rare blood disease and needs a bone marrow transplant. None of the donors on the list have been a match. Her only hope is to go to the original sperm donor and try to have another child, one who will be a perfect match. (Not having a good understanding of medicine, this seemed like a strange “hook,” but hey, it is romance and not real life. If you can buy this, the rest of the story works).
The sperm came from Finn Hawkins, who donated when he was in college. He even felt bad afterward and never did anything like that again. Finn is a well-known chef and is in the midst of starting his own restaurant in his home town of Erie, Pennsylvania. Amelia confronts him and asks him for another donation and he refuses at first. He ultimately agrees but also wants to get to know his daughter. Amelia refuses.
A few months go by, and Amelia is pregnant. She continues with her work in Maine and Jordan continues to harangue her mother about the details of her father. Jordan takes advantage of a medical convention and flies to Erie. The “how” is again a little over the top, but ultimately can be believed. Jordan shows up to see Finn and also meets his numerous sisters and brothers, none of whom knew anything about her. Of course, that creates issues for Finn with his family. He is both thrilled to meet Jordan and fully aware she must go back to her mother. But now that he has met her, he is certain he wants some type of relationship with her, too.
Amelia comes to collect Jordan and has a medical emergency that will require her to be in bed for the rest of her pregnancy. The circumstances are all there and Finn is determined to take full advantage; he wants a relationship with his daughter and his growing child, and if something develops with the mother of said children, then so be it.
Amelia, meanwhile, is determined to keep her distance and not let Finn get entrenched in her life. Sadly, she has no other real family and thus has no real defense against Finn, a bunch of aunts and uncles and the sense of family that is there in Erie, PA.
There are a lot of circumstances that sound preposterous and yet, Gable makes this work. I adored Finn’s family and would love to see stories about a few of them. Jordan is a precocious twelve-year-old, but having gone thru so many medical procedures and knowing she could die if this new baby doesn’t carry the right blood, makes it easy for the reader to see how she could be so smart and be so adultlike.
Finn is a great hero and really is the heart of the story. He is both aggressive in his wants and sensitive to Amelia and her needs. He is easy to like.
Overall, what could have been overly melodramatic and highly emotional ended up being a well-written story about the angst that some families must deal with when faced with a life-threatening illness. Kudos to Gable and The Family Plan.