Mother of Pearl

‘This is a story of family and motherhood, and also a story of culture and exploitation that asks us to think through the costs of our insatiable desire in the West to have everything. What I find remarkable about this novel is how it refuses easy and lazy judgement, how it takes seriously questions of loss, longing, and our human need to connect with each other.’
Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

A luminous and courageous story about the hopes and dreams we all have for our lives and relationships, and the often fraught and unexpected ways they may be realised. Angela Savage draws us masterfully into the lives of Anna, an aid worker trying to settle back into life in Australia after more than a decade in Southeast Asia; Meg, Anna’s sister, who holds out hope for a child despite seven fruitless years of IVF; Meg’s husband Nate, and Mukda, a single mother in provincial Thailand who wants to do the right thing by her son and parents. The lives of the women and their families become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across borders of class, culture and nationality. Rich in characterisation and feeling, Mother of Pearl, and the timely issues it raises, will generate discussion among readers everywhere.


‘A beautifully crafted novel from an incredibly gifted writer. Angela Savage explores the ethical minefield of international surrogacy through the stories of three women, desperate but determined to repair the broken parts of their lives. The prose is as precise as it is poetic, the characters so deftly drawn. I read this book compulsively, racing to its poignant conclusion with my heart in my throat.’
Melanie Cheng, author of Australia Day and Room for a Stranger

‘Savage, who writes with a tough mind and a tender heart, tackles the moral and ethical issues around surrogacy with an unsentimental yet sympathetic eye: this is a novel, not a polemic.’ Linda Jaivin, The Saturday Paper

‘In Mother of Pearl, author Angela Savage has given us a wonderfully diverse and engaging book with confronting themes that are sure to be hotly debated over a glass of wine in book clubs all over Australia. This is a nuanced and complex story of parenthood, most particularly what it means to be a mother. It’s a story of family – the yearning to create a family, and the sacrifices we are prepared to make in order to establish and maintain a family.’
Cass Moriarty, author of Parting Words

‘Even a hard-bitten old codger like myself found certain passages of this work tearful going … Authorial attention to technical detail combined with raw emotional honesty and cross-cultural empathy has produced a narrative of resounding depth. … This book is a window opening onto an intersection of economic choices and biological imperatives. We have here a rough literary equivalent of the Mexican movie Roma, except that Savage sees the view, with equal clarity, from both sides.’
Ken Haley, Courier Mail

Mother of Pearl is not a tricksy novel, it has clean lines and a strong structure and manages to be both solid and light of touch. It has believable, flawed characters who are trying to figure out how best to navigate their hopes and dreams. Savage is careful to draw us into each of their lives and is both unflinching and kind in her dealings with them … Ultimately though, Mother of Pearl is a book about relationships – between people, countries and cultures – between those who have, and those who have not.
Marian Woolf, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald

[T]his book accomplishes what many literary novels fail to do— it’s thought-provoking, confronting and, importantly, one heck of a page-turner. Savage imbues it with her trademark insights into Thai culture, melding it beautifully with Australia culture and creating a world that is so aptly described that the reader can virtually feel the humidity of Bangkok. None of the characters in this novel are perfect or ‘blameless’, questions about motherhood are raised and Savage cleverly avoids stereotypical or shallow answers and, above all, this is simply an exquisitely written novel.
Samantha Bond, Glam Adelaide

‘An “issues” book where the author trusts the reader to think for herself, very well written and, in my opinion, a very fine novel indeed.’
FictionFan’s Book Reviews

‘[Mother of Pearl] is a powerful narrative on the ethical issues that one confronts in surrogacy, about the rights of the mother that bears the child, and the mother who keeps them… This is one of the best books I have read this year and I learned new things about Thailand and surrogacy.’
Kriti Khare, Armed With A Book

Mother of Pearl is a sensitive work where the subject matter has been very carefully selected, the research comprehensive, the emotion woven throughout all too real, as it presents the world of hope, despair, depression, longing and in many cases destruction, that is an integral component of the IVF journey so many couples face, in the overwhelming desire to hold a child of their own in their arms… A novel which will certainly be cause for debate in Book Clubs.
Janet Mawdesley, Blue Wolf Reviews

‘Angela Savage has given us a story that explores an important subject from three points of view in a nuanced way. Mother of Pearl is an enjoyable novel about a difficult issue and how people cope with it.’
Erich Mayer, ArtsHub

[Angela Savage] … takes us on a journey through all sides of the [surrogacy] issue in a beautifully written novel that will leave you questioning the western culture of wanting “everything” when so many people have nothing. Set in Thailand before surrogacy was banned, and captured in a page-turning plot, the book is an honest look at the surrogacy industry which almost reads like a thriller.’
Karina Barrymore, Herald Sun Weekend

The novel’s focus is international surrogacy, which Savage seeks to both humanize and complicate… Mother of Pearl won’t satisfy readers wanting the book to come down harder on commercial surrogacy … but it does widen our understanding of one of the more unlikely aspects of human relations initiated by globalization.
Mark Azzopardi, ‘The Near and the Far’, Antipodes Journal


Whispering Gums, ‘Angela Savage, Mother of Pearl (#BookReview)’, 6 January 2021
Antipodes Journal, ‘The Near and the Far’ by Mark Azzopardi, 20 April 2020
Public Service News, Review by Rama Gaind, 16 March 2020
Westerly Magazine, Review of ‘Mother of Pearl’ by Patricia Johnson
The AU Review by Emily Paull, 17 November 2019
The Big Issue, Angela Elizabeth, 18 October 2019
Glam Adelaide, Samantha Bond, 12 Oct 2019
FictionFan’s Book Reviews, 23 Sept 2019
Herald Sun, Karina Barrymore, 21 Sept 2019
The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, Marian Woolf, 31 August 2019
Blue Wolf Reviews, Janet Mawdesley, 25 August 2019
The Saturday Paper, Linda Jaivin, 10 August 2019
ArtsHub, Erich Mayer, 7 Aug 2019
Cass Moriarty Author review, 31 July 2019
Armed With A Book, Kriti Khare, 28 July 2019
Courier Mail, Ken Hayley, 18 July 2019
ANZ LitLovers, Lisa Hill, 15 July 2019


On being an ethical writer Radio National The Book Show, 27 April 2020 (starts 27:47)
Travel without moving: 10 authors recommend books set over the globe, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 2020
The First Time Podcast, September 2019
Books that changed me, 24 August 2019
Backstory: Angela Savage discusses her novel Mother of Pearl, 3RRR, 7 August 2019
The Garret: Writers on Writing, 1 August 2019
Published or not, 3CR, 18 July 2019


Quintette of Questions: Angela Savage with Narelle Harris
2, 2 and 2: Angela Savage talks about Mother of Pearl, looking up/looking down
Armed With A Book interview with Kriti Khare
Booklover Book Reviews on the inspiration for Mother of Pearl
Mother of Pearl interview on
Meet the Author, In Their Own Write
Switching Genres, a guest post on Lee Kofman’s blog

Download reading notes here.