Present day in suburban Texas. When the story begins we meet Bridget, a young woman who has left behind her legal career to be a full-time mother. She has a supportive husband and a darling ten month old daughter, Julie.
One night while she is rocking her fussy baby she encounters a ghostly presence in the room. It seems that it is only she and her baby daughter that can detect this presence.
Now we go back to 1902 when we meet Rebecca, also a new mother. Rebecca’s story is my favorite of the dual story-lines. She is a privileged doctor’s daughter who trades life in town when she marries a German farmer in 1902.
Even though the novel definitely contained a ghost, I would not call it a typical ghost story. The ghost seemed to be involved in the story as a vehicle to connect the two women who live a century apart. It made the reader question whether ghosts ‘haunt’ places or people because Bridget’s house was new with no history to beget the ghost.
I really enjoyed the writing and the language used. Some scenes will be cast in my memory for a long time. I found the plot was weak in places, and the ‘ghost’ unbelievable. The two female protagonists were memorable – I just wish their story was more cohesive.
The title of the novel, the ‘barter’ seems to represent the deals we make when we commit to parenthood – the deals we make for ourselves and the ones we make for our children. The heavy weight of responsibility and guilt that comes about as a result of being someone’s mother.
Essentially women’s fiction, the novel explores the issue of whether you can really ‘have it all’, or whether something has to be ‘bartered’ to achieve it…
In conclusion – I loved the writing and the strong characterization enough to read another novel by this author, but found the plot of “The Barter” weak and incohesive.
I received a paperback copy of this novel from the publisher, Penguin Random House, in exchange for my honest review.
An online reading group guide for “The Barter”.
Siobhan Adcock received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University, and her short fiction has appeared in several literary magazines. She has worked as a writer and editor for Epicurious, Gourmet.comiVillage.com, and The Known, among other digital publishers. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.