Title: The Herd
Author: Emily Edwards
Publisher: Transworld Books
You should never judge how someone chooses to raise their child.
Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They’re the best of friends, and godmothers to each other’s daughters – because they trust that the safety of their children is both of their top priority.
But what if their choice could harm your own child?
Little do they know that they differ radically over one very important issue. And when Bryony, afraid of being judged, tells what is supposed to be a harmless white lie before a child’s birthday party, the consequences are more catastrophic than either of them could ever have imagined…
Incredibly relevant and gripping, The Herd manages to address an important and very controversial topic in a thought-provoking and balanced way.
Young Clemmie can’t be vaccinated, as she had seizures as a baby and so they were advised against vaccinating her. However, mother Elizabeth fully believes in the good that vaccines such as the MMR jab can do and so, before Clemmie’s upcoming birthday party, she sends out an email asking for attendees to confirm that their child has been vaccinated – if they haven’t been, she asks them to stay away from her child in the future. It’s a bold move but one that she feels strongly is the right one to protect her vulnerable child, and she thinks herd immunity is the best way to do that.
Elizabeth’s best friend, Bry, has grown up with parents telling her about the dangers of vaccines because her brother has severe learning disabilities which they believe is due to the MMR vaccine. So, she has yet to vaccinate her young child Alba – but will she be completely truthful about this knowing how important her best friend thinks vaccinations are?
Their difference of opinion causes unforeseen complications in not just the two mothers’ relationship but for the rest of their families and the wider community.
The characters in The Herd – particularly Bry and their lives, is what makes this story so gripping. They all have backgrounds and life experiences that make them feel a certain way about whether they should or should not be vaccinating their young children. They’re not always likeable – certainly, some characters made me want to scream in frustration – but Emily Edwards did an amazing job of making you realise why they might be behaving a certain way, without promoting anti-vaxxers as a just or ‘right’ cause at all – the novel effectively shuts down the arguments for not vaccinating but helps you understand why some people worry, and how this perspective can spread so easily (just as COVID vaccine misinformation is spreading now).
The Herd has plenty of shocking moments, but it never feels preachy or too simplified. It strikes just the right tone, and had me completely hooked. The addition of the court case, which we learn about right at the start of the book, adds an element of drama and intrigue. I’d really recommend this book because, whether you have kids yourself or not, it will make you think about your own position, and how you’d react to those who feel the opposite way.
My Rating: 5/5
Many thanks to Transworld Books for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.