The Offering: A Novel

The Offering: A Novel

by Angela Hunt

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Overview

One innocent mistake… a lifetime of consequences.

One innocent mistake . . . a lifetime of consequences.

After growing up an only child, Amanda Lisandra wants a big family. But since she and her soldier husband can’t afford to have more children right away, Mandy decides to earn money as a gestational carrier for a childless couple. She loves being pregnant, and while carrying the child, she dreams of having her own son and maybe another daughter. . . .

Just when the nearly perfect pregnancy is about to conclude, unexpected tragedy enters Mandy’s world and leaves her reeling. Devastated by grief, she surrenders the child she was carrying and struggles to regain her emotional equilibrium.

Two years later she studies a photograph of the baby she bore and wonders if the unthinkable has happened—could she have inadvertently given away her own biological child? Over the next few months Mandy struggles to decide between the desires of her grief-stricken heart and what’s best for the little boy she has never known.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439182055
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 05/14/2013
Edition description: Original
Pages: 308
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than 100 books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don’t Bet Against Me, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Angela and her husband make their home in Florida with their dogs.

Read an Excerpt

The Offering




  • Marilee and I were trying to decide whether we should braid her hair or put it in pigtails when Gideon thrust his head into the room. Spotting me behind our daughter, he gave me a look of frustrated disbelief. “Don’t you have an important appointment this morning?”

    Shock flew through me as I lowered the silky brown strands in my hands. Of course, this was Monday. At nine I had a tremendously important interview with the Pinellas County school system.

    I glanced at the pink clock on my four-year-old daughter’s bureau. I had only an hour to shower and dress, drive across Tampa Bay, and find the school system’s personnel office. Somewhere in the mad rush I also needed to rehearse my responses to standard interview questions, calm my nerves, and call the grocery so they’d know I’d be late.

    How could I have let time slip away from me on such an important day? Good thing I had a helpful husband.

    “Gideon!” I yelled toward the now-empty doorway. “Can you call Mama Isa and tell her I’ll be late this morning?”

    “Just get going, Mandy,” he yelled, exasperation in his voice. “Your coffee’s in the kitchen.”

    I squeezed Marilee’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, sweet girl, but this morning we have to go with something quick.”

    “Okay. Can I wear it like Princess Leia tomorrow?”

    I frowned, trying to place the name. Was she one of the Disney princesses? “How does Princess Leia wear her hair?”

    “You know.” Marilee held her hands out from her ears and spun her index fingers in circles. “She has honey buns on her ears.”

    I laughed, placing the image—she was talking about the princess in Star Wars. “Sure, if you want to have honey buns over your ears, that’s what we’ll do. We aim to please.”

    I pulled the long hair from the top of her head into a ponytail, looped an elastic band over it, and tied a bow around the band. Then I kissed the top of her head and took a moment to breathe in the sweet scent of her strawberry shampoo. “Love you,” I murmured.

    She grinned. “Love you, too.”

    I returned her smile and hurried into my bathroom.

    Twenty minutes later I stood in my closet, wrapped in a towel and dripping on the carpet. What to wear? I had a nice blue skirt, but the waistband had lost its button and I had no idea where I’d put it. The black pantsuit looked expensive and professional, but sand caked my black sandals because I had worn them to the beach last weekend.

    “Baby girl?”

    “In here.”

    The closet door opened and Gideon grinned at me, a fragrant mug in his hand. “Aren’t you ever going to learn how to manage your schedule?”

    I grabbed the mug and gulped a mouthful of coffee. “Maybe I like living on the edge.”

    “And Mama says I have a dangerous job.” He waggled his brows at the sight of my towel. “Pity you don’t have any extra time this morning.”

    “And too bad you have to get Marilee to school. So off with you, soldier, so I can get my act together.”

    Chuckling, Gideon lifted his hands in surrender and stepped away from the closet. “Okay, then, I’m heading out. But you’re picking up our little bug from school today, right?”

    I dropped the blouse I’d been considering. “I’m what?”

    “Our daughter? You’re picking her up this afternoon because I’m leading a training exercise.”

    For an instant his face went sober and dark, reminding me of the reason he’d been so busy lately. The military had to be planning something, an operation Gideon couldn’t even mention to an ordinary civilian like me.

    “Sure.” My voice lowered to a somber pitch. “I’ve got it covered.”

    He nodded, but a hint of uncertainty lingered in his eyes. “Mandy—”

    “I’ve got it, so don’t worry.” I shooed him out the door. “Tell Marilee I’ll see her later.”

    Gideon nodded and left the bedroom, his combat boots thumping on the wooden floor.

    A snap of guilt stung my conscience, but I had no time for remorse. I needed a better-paying job and Pinellas County needed a middle school cafeteria manager. Rarely did any school have a midyear opening, and this interview could be the answer to all my prayers. . . .

    I opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of panty hose, then hesitated. No one wore hose anymore, especially not in the Florida heat, but for this job I’d wear rubber sheathing if they expected me to. I had to look my best, I had to dress to impress, and I had to get across the Howard Frankland Bridge in record time. No one expected a lunchroom manager to look like a fashion icon, but everyone expected her to show up on time.

    A brown skirt hung behind Gideon’s gun safe. Though the suede material would be hot and heavy, at least the garment had buttons and a hem. I grabbed it, then yanked a utilitarian white shirt from a hanger. Ready or not, I had to get moving.

    A few minutes later, as I fastened the buttons at the sleeve, I noticed a reddish stain on the cuff, probably from Marilee’s cranberry juice. With no time to change, I rolled both sleeves up to the elbow.

    I brushed my teeth and hair, swiped mascara across my lashes, and thrust my feet into a pair of worn loafers. I stepped back for one final look in the mirror, then shook my head. I looked more like an absentminded blonde than a manager, but maybe the interviewer wouldn’t mind. I’d impress her with my professionalism.

    I ran back into the bedroom, grabbed my oversized leather tote from a hook on the door, and hurried out to my car.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Offering includes discussion questions, and a Q&A with author Angela Hunt. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Before reading this novel, had you ever given much thought to the ethics of surrogate parenting? What about the ethics of in vitro fertilization?

    2. What do you think about Mandy’s motives for deciding to become a surrogate?

    3. At one point, Mandy thinks, And, unlike Millie, I hoped my lifetime would hold far more significant feats than having someone else’s baby. Knowing what you know about Mandy, what do you think is the most significant thing she has accomplished thus far?

    4. If you were in Mandy’s situation, what would you do about the child you suspected of being your biological son? Would you let him remain where he was or would you want to raise him yourself? Do you agree with Mandy’s decision?

    5. Do you think Mandy really chose the best answer for Julien? What was the best answer for her?

    6. When Mandy first finds out about Julien’s resemblance to Marilee, she believes “blood trumps everything” even though she wouldn’t have applied that principle in the situation with Amelia, Mario, and the three-year-old foster son they were forced to surrender. If you were a judge in family court, how would you rule in situations like these?

    7. Did you enjoy the first person writing style? Do you wish you’d had a peek into any other characters’ heads?

    8. Who was your favorite character? What did you especially like about them? Which character did you like the least?

    9. Did you experience any sort of emotional trauma in your childhood? How did the incident affect you? How are you different today because of the event? Are you comfortable talking about the trauma as an adult?

    10. What do you think the future holds for Mandy? For Julien? For Marilee?

    11. Have you read any of Angela Hunt’s other books? How does this novel compare to the other books you’ve read?


    A Conversation with Angela Hunt

    1. What kind of research did you conduct on surrogacy and adoption for The Offering? What did you discover about practices in the United States versus other countries?

    I did quite a bit of research on surrogacy—I read a book written by a surrogate mother, plus I read several recent articles about the increase in surrogacy among military wives. As referenced in the novel, I discovered that surrogacy is easier in the U.S. than in many European countries. As to adoption—I’ve lived that!

    2. In The Offering, Mandy considers the cultural repercussions of carrying another man’s child since she is part of a large Cuban family. What other cultural implications do you think exist, both in and outside of Cuban culture?

    I do think that most cultural objections to surrogacy rise from misunderstanding—people don’t realize that gestational carriers are carrying a child that is completely unrelated to the pregnant woman. The Mary Beth Whitehead case, where the child developed from Ms. Whitehead’s egg and so was her biological child, forced many parents to abandon true surrogacy and opt instead for a gestational carrier.

    3. How did you use faith and religion to inform Mandy’s and several other characters’ decisions? What kind of role does faith play in your own life?

    I believe that God created every life for a purpose—so we should behave responsibly toward unborn children even if they are only at the blastocyst stage. Too many doctors don’t fully inform parents about “discarded embryos” and too many IVF parents don’t realize—or don’t want to know—that they may be asked to “discard” fully human lives. I have no problem with IVF or surrogacy as long as everyone involved fully understands the bioethical issues and resolves to preserve all human life: that would mean no freezing of embryos (because half of those embryos probably won’t survive the thawing procedure) and fertilizing only as many eggs as a woman is willing and able to carry in a pregnancy.

    4. Have you ever heard of the kind of mistake that happened with Mandy’s pregnancy?

    Fortunately, no. But I have read about IVF cases where a woman gave birth to two babies who were supposed to be her genetic offspring but weren’t. I’ve also read about a British couple whose last frozen embryo was implanted in another woman who, upon learning of the mistake, aborted the baby she was carrying. I’ve met an American family whose frozen embryo was implanted in another woman, but she chose to surrender the child to the biological parents at birth. Some heartbreaking mistakes have occurred in the field of reproductive medicine.

    5. In The Offering, some of the characters seemed judgmental of Mandy’s chief motivator—money—for participating in surrogacy. Do you think that’s a good enough reason to participate in such a significant and potentially devastating task? If you were giving advice to a friend considering surrogacy, what would you tell her?

    Money is not the root of all evil—the love of money is, and Mandy was not in love with money, she was simply trying to help her family. Her motivation was no different from mine when I show up to work each morning. But if someone I knew wanted to be a gestational carrier, I would warn her that the chief ethical danger is the cheapening of human life. If a doctor or the intended parents intend to treat IVF embryos like spare parts, or if they even mention selective termination (aborting one or more babies because too many embryos implanted), I would urge her to find another place to fulfill her desire to serve a childless couple.

    6. The Offering feels like the intimate trials and musings of a close friend, and it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re reading someone’s journal. How personal did the book end up being for you?

    As an adoptive parent, for years I have had a keen interest in life and parenting issues. And as someone who worked hard to add children to our family, I must admit that I wanted Mandy to get custody of her baby boy. When I discussed my book-in-progress with some friends, I was stunned that they thought Mandy was being selfish. My goodness, why wouldn’t she want to raise her own child? I’d fight tooth and nail to have my baby back in my arms. But when I considered that the Amblours were good parents, and because I know the first two years of a child’s life are crucial for healthy development, I realized that Mandy would have to consider what was best for Julien. And sacrificing for the child—isn’t that what motherhood is all about?

    7. In some states, the birth mother of an adopted child has a certain amount of time into the adoption where she can change her mind and essentially take the baby back from the adoptive parents. We saw this possibility come up with Mario and Amelia. Do you think this is fair?

    I think it’s hard. Terribly hard on the adoptive parents who have given their heart to a child only to have the child—and their hearts—ripped out. It’s especially hard when the biological parents don’t seem to “deserve” the children who had been taken away. But if I were a young woman who surrendered my baby because I felt hopeless and helpless, I would hope and pray that I would be able to turn my life around and be granted a second chance with my child. So for the sake of young women like that, I do think the “revocation of consent period” is fair. Some agencies will not place a baby with an adoptive couple until after this period is over—if excellent foster homes are available, that might be the best approach.

    8. According to your Web site, one of your interests is photography. How do writing and taking photographs compare? Which gives you more creative fulfillment?

    They are very similar when it comes to marketing, branding, and selling, but they’re quite different when it comes to creating art. Yet both require a thorough knowledge of equipment and technology, and both deliver occasional surprises for the artist. Both are focused on eliciting emotion from the reader/viewer. Both have levels of competency: beginning, amateur, and professional. Both require the artist to see the world in new ways. Both, I suppose, can change lives and hearts. But photography doesn’t require nearly as many hours to produce a single polished product. That’s refreshing.

    9. You’ve written more than 115 books. Where do you find your inspiration for writing fiction?

    I find inspiration everywhere, but mostly from daily life. I’ll read something interesting or hear something intriguing and think, “What if . . .” and I’m off.

    10. What is your favorite genre to write?

    I really don’t have a favorite. I find that writing is like building, and as long as a writer can skillfully use the appropriate “tools” and follow the genre blueprint, he can write anything from a novel to a screenplay. Just as a builder would grow tired of making dog houses all the time, I’d be bored if I had to write every book in the same genre. I love mixing things up.

    11. Do you have plans to write another book? Will we be seeing Mandy again?

    I always have another book on the calendar, and I’m busy writing now. But I don’t think we’ll be seeing Mandy again . . . unless she shows up at my desk and insists that I get busy.

    Customer Reviews

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    offering 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Angela Hunt has done it again. Another book with real life situations full of twist and turns and times you run into something you never saw coming. YOU ARE ONE OF THE BEST ANGELA HUNT PLEASE KEEP THEM COMING.
    ruthhill74 More than 1 year ago
    This was an exceptionally written book, and I have nothing but praise for the style, the story, and in many aspects, the reality of the story. I always am impressed when Christian authors venture into areas that many don't dare to go, and that of surrogacy is just such an area. I honestly didn't even know that surrogacy was something that was still going on, but I learned that it is definitely a thriving, lucrative business that just tends to stay out of the news. One of my few complaints is that this book is not "Christian" enough, and unfortunately, this is a recurring trend. When a book is published as a Christian book, I always come in with the expectation that it will be clean (which this book is) and carry a message that is not only positive but points back to God. God's influence is seen in this book, but I just don't see the characters turning to God and relying on Him as they go through their lives. There was a lot of Catholicism in the book, and of course, there was mention of heaven. But I don't understand why Mandy and Gideon don't turn to God before they make major decisions. They talk about prayer, but I see them talking and thinking through things rather than asking "What would God have me do?" One other issue I have concerns the issue of surrogacy. I am glad that the book touches on the fact that it may not be right for a Christian to be involved in this practice. Amelia gives some wonderfully biblical thoughts concerning this, but I don't understand why the issue is never raised again. What about the frozen embryos that never got the chance? Will they just be allowed to die? I wish the author had at least had Mandy consider that issue again, but she never does. I will say that the overarching message of the book is emotional and amazing. What Mandy does is sure to pull on your heartstrings, and I think God is shown more in the last third of the book than anywhere else. But still, I don't see Mandy change her mind due to anything having to do with God. It is this kind of ambiguity that has led me to rate this book as a four rather than five. I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are one hundred percent me, and I was not financially compensated in any way.
    Smilingsally More than 1 year ago
    I get so excited whenever Angela Hunt releases another book because she never disappoints me. Her characters ring true, the situations they face are believable, and plots move along at a nice pace. I appreciate the depth the author goes to with her research. I always learn from her novels. This is a story about a military wife who decides to serve as a gestational carrier for a couple who cannot carry their own child. There is a side story about foster parenting and adoption. The first person point of view allows the reader to walk hand-in-hand with Amanda (Mandy) as she moves through her experiences. I think she reasoned her dilemma out quite well, and I agree with her decision.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    very good book won't be disappointed if purchased.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    VicG More than 1 year ago
    Angela Hunt in her new book, "The Offering" published by Howard Books takes us into the life of Amanda Lisandra. From the back cover: One innocent mistake . . . a lifetime of consequences. After growing up an only child, Amanda Lisandra wants a big family. But since she and her soldier husband can't afford to have more children right away, Mandy decides to earn money as a gestational carrier for a childless couple. She loves being pregnant, and while carrying the child, she dreams of having her own son and maybe another daughter. . . . Just when the nearly perfect pregnancy is about to conclude, unexpected tragedy enters Mandy's world and leaves her reeling. Devastated by grief, she surrenders the child she was carrying and struggles to regain her emotional equilibrium. Two years later she studies a photograph of the baby she bore and wonders if the unthinkable has happened--could she have inadvertently given away her own biological child? Over the next few months Mandy struggles to decide between the desires of her grief-stricken heart and what's best for the little boy she has never known. From a personal standpoint I don't really understand the idea of surrogate parenting. I do understand that, genetically, the child is the same as if the wife had carried it naturally. The only difference here is that another woman is carrying the child to term. Whatever my issue is this is the situation that Ms. Hunt has given us here in her book, "The Offering". Amanda was a surrogate parent and gave the child over to the parents after birth. Two years later Amanda thinks she actually gave up the baby she was going to have with her husband. Ms. Hunt has given us an emotionally riveting story that could have gone all soapy on us. Instead she has given us characters that are real and, sometimes, far from likeable. "The Offering" deals with issues of surrogate parenting, tragedy, loss, adoption and infertility. These are issues that are not normally addressed in literature and Ms. Hunt has done a spectacular job in her presentation. She has certainly given us much to think about whether we agree with the actions that are taken by the characters or not. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
    JerseyGirlBookReviews More than 1 year ago
    If you had the chance to be a surrogate for a couple who couldn't have a baby, would you do it? Now, what if a tragedy strikes at the end of the pregnancy that leaves you in terrible grief, and two years later you see a picture of the baby boy you carried for the couple, and he looks like your daughter. Could it be possible that the boy you carried was biologically yours? What would you do? This is the heart wrenching dilemma that Amanda Lisandra found herself in two years after being a surrogate for a childless couple. In author Angela Hunt's poignant novel The Offering, the reader follows the bittersweet journey of military wife Amanda Lisandra as she contemplates what to do when the issue of paternity arises from the surrogate birth of the baby boy she had carried for a childless couple two years ago. Written in the first person narrative and set in Tampa, Florida, this thought-provoking story about surrogate parenting takes the reader on a heart wrenching roller coaster ride that will leave them emotionally spent. Amanda is a military wife who is looking for a way to make some extra money to help secure the financial future of her family. When a pregnant military wife comes into her husband Gideon's family's Cuban grocery store, she tells Amanda about being a surrogate for a childless couple. This information gets Amanda thinking about the potential of raising extra money for their future as well as helping a childless couple have a baby. Gideon is in the Army and leads an elite 16-man counterterrorism unit under the Special Forces Command based in Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, and is frequently deployed on special secret missions. After much discussion, Gideon reluctantly supports Amanda becoming a surrogate for a French couple. Tragedy strikes when Gideon is killed in action and Amanda gives birth to a baby boy on the same day that she learns that she is a widow. Two years later, Amanda receives a picture of the child she bore for the couple on his second birthday, and she is shocked by how much he resembles her husband and daughter. Having kept a lock of his hair, she has a DNA test taken with the results coming back that the boy is Amanda and Gideon's biological son. Amanda now faces the difficult moral choices of what to do: seek custody of her son or leave him in the care of the French couple. This poignant story transports the reader into Amanda's story, you can't help but become emotionally invested and step into Amanda's shoes as her journey leads her down a difficult path to decide the best course of action to take for her son and family. Author Angela Hunt thoughtfully tackles the difficult issues surrounding surrogacy, and the emotional, moral, legal dilemmas and consequences that come with it. The Offering is a captivating story that deals with death, loss, grief and family support; it has an engaging cast of characters, dramatic dialogue and interactions; and a realistic storyline that has tender moments, riveting twist and turns, and a surprise hope-filled conclusion that will pull at your heartstrings. The Offering is a poignant and tender story that will simply touch your heart and soul, and resonate with you long after the last word has been read.