a child made to order

psychological drama/thriller (novel)

A child made to order(2017)

“When an investigative journalist’s search for a missing woman turns up illegal gene therapy treatments, she has to choose if she wants to reveal the story publicly or fulfill her lifelong desire of being a mother. 

Genre:  Psychological drama/thriller

Amazon Kindle:  AVAILABLE NOW

Publisher: The Book Folks, website

Publication year: January, 2017

Editing (1st round): Melissa Gray,  website,  

Additional editing: Beata Krawczyk

Editing (2nd & 3rd round): The Book Folks

“Superb psychological thriller. We stay with Viola all the way through her ordeal. Powerful and at times a bit chilling. Well worth a read.”

Amazon customer about the novel – A child made to order

In publisher’s words 

A finely-crafted psychological suspense thriller set in Norway’s capital city, Oslo, that will appeal to fans of Stieg Larsson.

When a women’s fertility rights campaigner, Marianne Stine, mysteriously disappears, it hardly reaches the news. Only investigative journalist Viola Voss, harried by the blogger’s mother, shows any interest in finding out what happened to the young woman. Yet years pass and there is no further sign of Marianne.

However, on the eve of taking up a prestigious senior post in Norway’s largest newspaper, Voss is once again reminded of Marianne’s disappearance. In fact, Voss is soon presented with a tantalising clue that not only is Marianne alive, she has a healthy young child.

Part of Voss’s fascination with Marianne is because they share the same rare genetic condition that would be passed on to their children. Haunted by having lost her own child due to this hereditary disease, Voss determines – against the strong wishes of her own over-powering mother – to put her new job on hold, try to find Marianne, and an explanation.

Enlisting the help of an ex-police sergeant, the clues point to a fertility clinic on the outskirts of town. But this is where Voss’s problems begin. The clinic’s claim of a 100% fertility treatment success rate is beguiling and, with her inner world in turmoil, she decides to take a risk that will force her to confront her own fears, deal with her loss and decide between right and wrong.

If you enjoy psychological mysteries with intense drama, look no further than A CHILD MADE TO ORDER

The issue of genetic manipulation of human embryos, of children literally made to order, is increasingly becoming one of the most important ethical and medical issues of our time. With delicacy, and emotional sensitivity, the author makes you think about the matter like you never have before, in a novel where the tension increases on every page, and ends with a stunning climax.

Piotr Ryczko is a Polish/Norwegian writer and film maker. A CHILD MADE TO ORDER is his first novel.

An incredible journey can be joined in this book, as you accompany Viola on a journey of self-discovery and healing, as well as spine-tingling suspense, while she works to uncover the mystery of a missing person’s case that everyone else seems to have pushed from their minds. While struggling with the loss of her own child–a pain no parent should ever have to endure–Viola puts her own life on the line to help a woman with whom she has a special thing in common. As the tension mounted with each page, I found myself conflicted, not even sure whom I should be rooting for in some places. An exploration of one of the world’s most sensitive subjects, this book made me think about things in a way that I may not have otherwise.

BookChick blogger about the novel – A child made to order

The whats, the whys, and what fors

A child made to order is about Viola, an investigative journalist, whose search for a missing woman uncovers illegal gene therapy treatments. Viola is then faced with the dilemma of whether she wants to reveal the story publicly or fulfill her lifelong desire of being a mother.

This Norwegian/Polish film project is currently in development and has participated in the prestigious MIDPOINT story development program organised by the Polish National Film School and Czech National Film School – FAMU. The production for this movie is planned as a Norwegian/Polish co-production.

A child made to order is a psychological thriller novel that tackles, not some far-off future technological themes, but the present reality of Genetics. Something that every parent will have to take a standpoint on. The novel also elaborates on the current difficulties infertile women face in their struggles to become mothers. Future parents and women coping with childlessness are whom I would like to reach with this story.

Through the story A child made to order, I would like to look at how biotechnology influences our world, the society we live in and most importantly the individual. The first thing that drew me to this matter is the moral ambivalence of the real live cases and the future of medical practice in this field. A subject matter which has rather a lot of gray shaded areas than pure black and whites, where there are no obvious moral stances. The second thing was how current this topic is. A future presented in Gattaca might have seemed distant but A child made to order shows we are right in the middle of it and it’s a revolution. So we need to ask, where do we set the limits both medically and ethically on how far we should intervene with mother nature? Are we prepared to give our children a better/more efficient head start with the biotech available. And at what cost? Based on what values do we bring our kids to the world? In what image and with which ideals do we conceive our children?

Finally on a more personal note. Although this project is a carefully plotted drama/thriller that is meant to engage and entertain the audience, it has also become an intensely personal journey for me. Overcoming my lifelong struggle with social anxiety has given me the emotional fuel to pen the inner journey of the main character of this novel, Viola, whose character arc is breaking out of the destructive mould caused by her infertility.

For more on the themes of this story, please see my blog: www.storygeist.com

To read more about the movie, please go to A child made to order – movie

This book is based on a subject many hope not to experience, but many do. How far would you go to have a healthy child. This book looks at this subject and unless you have been there many readers may not understand the desperation this book portrays and how close you can come to losing your mind. This is a very complex, controversial and heartbroken book. It is sensitively and carefully constructed and you need to read it with an open mind. It is a brilliant book well worth reading.

Mrs. Margaret Jelfs about the novel – A child made to order

Excerpt from the novel #1

(Note: Viola, the protagonist of the novel, finds herself in a cramped subway. Out of breath and bordering on delirious, she suddenly catches a glimpse of her son. Read on to see how her world spins out of control, despite knowing all too well her son has been dead for two years.)

Wednesday, 13th February 2016

Afternoon 

    The subway was filled to the brim. Viola’s breathing grew more desperate by the second. She knew she couldn’t go on like this for much longer. She couldn’t stand these people or her situation.

The last two years had been so by the book. Under control, just as she expected of her life. After her breakdown, shortly after Markus, she had done some grim therapy sessions. The luxurious retreat had cost way more than she could spend at the time. But her mother was more than happy to pay for her daughter’s well-being. After all, it was either that or be forced to reveal a failure in the family.

And Anne didn’t accept anything less than success in her life. So Viola spent two months in the northern part of Norway, just to make her mum happy. She proved to everyone, including herself, the breakdown was just a coincidence. A sudden blip on the radar that would never show up again. Anne was happy that Viola seemed stable. Or at least could fool the experts into thinking this was the case.

Still, the retreat had not been all that bad. It helped her to regain some much-needed distance to herself. It had also taught her some basic meditation techniques. She was never much into spirituality or New Age thinking. Her mind was way too pragmatic to even consider going down that road. But the basic meditations had done wonders for her. And ever since then, she had done the breath-focused meditations each morning.

Now, as she stood in the cramped subway, choking on the lack of air, she attempted again to focus on the breath. And what usually worked wonders, did nothing for her. On the contrary, she got even more agitated, bordering on delirious.

When she was finally prepared to push herself towards a premature exit, something caught her eye. A boy’s profile standing sideways to her. Perfectly curly blond hair and that nice rounded chin.

It looked just like him.

Markus.

Viola blinked once, twice. And the more closely she looked at him, the more she became mesmerised by every single detail about his features.

Viola began to push herself towards him. Shouldered everybody in order to reach the boy. And he was just standing there, all by himself. All alone. And then it struck her. It wasn’t just that he looked like Markus.

Maybe it was Markus.

After all, it would make sense. He could have gotten lost. And, somehow, he was taking this subway, maybe he was even looking for her. Hoping to find his mother again.

She pressed on, elbowed her way through, and when she finally reached him, he spun around towards her. A flash of recognition passed through her body. His ethereal face looked right into her eyes.

Of course.

It was Markus.

It all made sense now. Him being here, finding him, a miracle. And everything that followed was just joy. The feeling of the boy’s soft hand against her callous palm. The trustful exchange of glances between them. And she realised all this suffering she’d had to endure, it wasn’t for nothing. No. It was just so she could find him. Right here, right now. As their eyes met, she understood he was just as alone and lost as she had been.

But at this moment, nothing would ever come between them again. And nothing would force her to let go of his hand.

As she drew him out of the subway, Viola suddenly felt a woman’s hand lash at her back. The woman’s fingers wrenched at her coat, and her eyes glared with a blistering accusation.

Viola thought the subway stations gathered all kinds of crazies. And this woman had to be one of them. So she shielded her Markus, and decided to make a run for it. She had to get him to safety.

But she had barely made it across the platform when words finally pierced through her clouded mind.

“What the fuck, Lady! What the hell are you doing with my son?” the woman shrieked at Viola. And this time, she ripped the boy away from Viola’s hand. And as she peered into the kid’s face, Viola was hit by a simple realisation.

Not Markus.

Not Markus.

After that, other accusations followed. Lots of nasty words were thrown at her. Unintelligible, toxic threats of police and other grim consequences. Stuff she knew she couldn’t deal with

So she made a run for it. And as she escaped, she was encapsulated by a dense fog.

A Child Made to Order is a well-paced thriller investigating fascinating ethical issues from a personal perspective. While it is well plotted and confidently written, I found Ryczko’s particular strength lay in characterisation. Whether a main or minor character, each character’s motivations and idiosyncrasies were extremely well thought-out, and delivered subtly to the reader. The question of genetically modifying children is a very interesting one, but it’s particularly interesting here because we get to see the issues as they affect individuals.  It’s a personal story, not a story about ethical issues. Viola’s personal connection to her investigation in particular makes the subject matter relatable. 

Anouska, Goodreads reviewer about the novel – A child made to order

Excerpt from the novel #2

(Note: Rene is one of the many women undergoing gene therapies at the InviNordica clinic. Obsessed with her son’s intelligence quota, Rene has gone to extreme measures to make sure her son is competetive at the highest level. But at what cost?)

Rene

She had to be patient with him, she knew that all too well. But where there should have been progress, she was met with only hurdles. And where she had been promised great things, there was only disappointment. Rene had to lower her expectations, lower the bar even more.

Rene hunched even closer to Trond and stared into his eyes. She reminded herself, her proximity assured him he was safe. At least, that’s what the doctors said. And she had to listen to them. It was the only assurance she got.

He was barely four, and although his face was full of bursting radiance, she had to push away that gnawing feeling she had inside herself. There was something inherently off about his face, something she attempted to forget each time he twinkled at her. Yet this time, as his grin widened, she was struck by the subtle misalignment of his features. The nose just a little bit too low, the eyes unevenly spaced, and the brows just a little too big. But she pushed away these facts and reminded herself, no one paid attention to these things. It was way too vague to be noticed, anyway. And the eeriness that prodded at her and reminded her he was different, those were only her feelings betraying her.

After all, he was her son.

She slid even closer to him and looked over at his hand, which kept scribbling away on a few paper sheets.

“Concentrate, Pumpkin. Please, concentrate,” she whispered to him and glanced down at the drawing. On the paper were countless mathematical fractions, divisions, radians, and degrees.

“But, Mum, can I play?” he pleaded with her, eager to get up. But Rene caught him by his collar and gently pressed him back onto the bench. Then she reminded herself one more time she had to be patient. She had to make it worth his time, motivate him, inspire him.

“Oh, sweetie. Didn’t you want to be a mathematician when you grow up? Remember our goal? My—your dream?” she said and beamed at him as she shoved the paper back into his lap.

Lately, he had learnt a new trick. He expressed enthusiasm where he had none, and as soon as she let him off the hook, he was gone, off to play somewhere else, or even worse, doing stuff that had nothing to do with their common dream.

As she gazed into his eyes, she saw right through him. He was avoiding their homework. She felt a sting of impatience at the boy’s lack of involvement in this important matter. Why couldn’t he see what she was doing for him?

She punched a few numbers into her calculator and locked eyes with him.

“What is 1/23 divided by 4/365?” She jabbed at him with her finger, demanding an answer straightaway.

“I don’t know,” he whispered under his breath, exasperation filling his face. She felt another sigh pass through her. Had all these years gone to waste?

She swivelled her head closer to him and pointed to his head.

“It’s all in here. Remember that!” She said the words slowly, one by one. Making sure he got every syllable. And as she locked gazes with him, Trond responded with a barely audible sniffle.

“You are hurting my arm,” he whimpered and glanced at her hand, which was clenched onto his shoulder.

Rene loosened her hand and retreated. In that moment, it began to dawn on her. The futility of it all. She wanted a better life for him. She had come here just to have him. She did everything they had asked of her. All by the book.

She took all the hormonal treatments that left her body in ruins. She prolonged her stay here, on several occasions, until the word “indefinitely” began to have an abstract sound to it. And all of it was done because the staff recommended it. Only the best for Trond was good enough.

And they were right, it was all done so he could have a future. To give him a head start in this infested rat race. Something her parents were never able to give her. But despite all of this, he still wouldn’t listen. He shied away from her pleas. He ran away from his math training. He refused the clinic’s diagnostics, flailed at the staff, and spat out his medication.

Ungrateful little brat.

Why couldn’t he see the obvious? If he lacked in just about every imaginable area, he more than made up for in inadequacy. In this world, there was no place for runner-ups, and much less for the last one in the line.

And she had to admit, there were times when everything in her just gave in, and she boiled over. Then she simply stared into his eyes and asked him if he wanted to be just like all the others? Did he really want to be a nobody?

But inside herself, she knew that he risked even more, because a nobody faded away into obscurity and was simply forgotten. But her boy would be ridiculed. He would be made a laughingstock just for being different. Just because of his face.

“It’s 3 89/92.” Rene heard the words uttered behind her back. She whipped her head around and eyed her son.

Did she hear him right? Did he give her the correct answer? No. It had to be her mind playing some trick on her. This was just a coincidence. Or even worse, maybe he was cheating. She inspected his face closer, then scanned around him. No, there was no way he could have seen the read-out on her calc.

“What did you say?” she probed him, making sure he wasn’t playing with her.

“It’s 3 89/92,” he moaned out the words between tears.

Normally she would have given him a hug, anything to hush the boy down. But this was far more important; this might even be a breakthrough. She grabbed onto her calculator.

And as Trond burst into tears from the cold shoulder treatment, she inspected the display. Immediately, her eyes sizzled with excitement. This was a quantum leap, a cause for celebration. The display read: 3 89/92.

Now, if only he could stop that damned snivelling.

The stories character development was good. The story believable! The twisting plot was a surprise! Good read! I loved it !!

Barbara B. (Amazon customer) about the novel – A child made to order

Excerpt from the novel #3

(Note: Katrine is another woman at the InviNordica clinic.  Read on to see what makes her obsession so special and why she should be the last woman on earth to have a child.)

Katrine

She had been waiting for this pain her entire life. Welcomed it as her body reverberated against the delivery bed. Katrine’s eyes palpitated into some dark crevice behind the lids, her fingers dug themselves into the railings, and somewhere in the distance, she discerned a faint heart rate monitor.

Was it hers or the child’s? She couldn’t make out the difference any longer. But one thing was certain, her pulse was turning erratic, skewing off onto some abandoned rail.

She whipped her mind into subordination, away from the negativity of it all. Then drew her eyes towards her palm. In it was a toy bear, an old, grungy rag. Mr. Scraggly was especially prepared for this occasion. His purple eyes held all the comfort she had needed when she had come into this world.

Mr. Scraggly wasn’t just some toy; he was her childhood. If Katrine’s mother was to remember anything, it was Mr. Scraggly’s adorable nose, tucked into her baby face, keeping all the bad monsters at bay. And right now, Katrine would see to it that her own little one would meet Mr. Scraggly.

But as the pain crushed her bones, threw her body into another excruciating spasm, her thoughts scattered into a mess. Her eyes wrenched from that safe inner place and drew to the labour nurse.

She eyed the staff around her, sand he was yet again reminded of one simple fact. Her own situation. They had told her about it. Even called it a condition. She couldn’t grasp why they would call it by this name. They had warned her repeatedly about the inherent dangers. They had gone through all the precautionary rules. Explained time and time again that she was one of a kind. As if she needed a delivery expert to enlighten her about this.

Then they had repeated that this wasn’t a normal baby delivery. Told her to be prepared, take all the factors into account, scrutinise the possible side effects. Yet, she didn’t listen to them; after all, what could be more natural than a baby’s birth, even in her condition?

Just before her contractions increased, they suggested an epidural. In her state, the anaesthetic would ease the transition, or so they said. But she wasn’t prepared to let them take this away from her. She had waited for this for far too long. And now they wanted to give her the blue pill, the easy way out. Not now, or ever.

Despite this, the staff did everything to make her feel uncomfortable. They had promised her a small staff, four people at most, nothing too intrusive. So why the hell were there closer to a dozen medics surrounding her? Half of them just stood around, doing nothing. Some of them monitored their equipment, but a few just watched her agony. The room should have been filled with the usual monitors and IV equipment, nothing invasive or intimidating. But, instead, it seemed to brim to the ceiling with all kinds of high-tech screens, scanners and whatnot.

And there was the labour itself. She had pushed for five hours, continuously. She had thrust beyond exhaustion, into a dark place called insanity. First-timers were expected to put in two or three hours at this phase, and her cervix had long been fully dilated. So what the hell were they waiting for? The baby’s head should have emerged a long time ago. But the harder she pushed, the more she felt her whole body was going to burst into flames.

No. There was nothing normal about this. If she had the strength to focus, she would face up to this fact. But she knew right now that she never had. From the very beginning, long before she had set foot in this clinic, she had made her choice, the most convenient one. Despite all the warnings from the medical experts.

As her abdomen exploded in pain, her eyes scrambled towards Mr. Scraggly. He would get her out of this mess, away from all her bad choices. That ruffled little thing had managed to get her mother through an arduous birth. And now he would see her through as well.

But as she got a glimpse at her palm, she realised it was empty. Her eyes scurried all over the room, scanning for him.

Gone.

She peered at the staff scramble towards her, and she felt her mind flooded by terror. Her throat was raging on fire, her cervix scorched her body. And as if to confirm this, she saw the staff, everyone’s faces alarmed, barely able to contain themselves.

Through a thick mist, she heard someone shrieking, a barely discernible cry for help, begging for the epidural. It took a while before she realised it was her own scream. She was begging for it.

Suddenly her mind was struck by an insight pulled from the very bottom of her intuition. Mr. Scraggly had been prepared for this occasion from the very moment the little bear cuddled into her own new-born cheek.

Exactly sixty-two years ago.

But as her body was overwhelmed with pain, she realised her child would never meet Mr. Scraggly. Nor would she. And she had no one to blame but herself.

This book is based on a subject many hope not to experience, but many do. How far would you go to have a healthy child. This book looks at this subject and unless you have been there many readers may not understand the desperation this book portrays and how close you can come to losing your mind. This is a very complex, controversial and heartbroken book.It is sensitively and carefully constructed and you need to read it with an open mind. It is a brilliant book well worth reading.

Mrs. Margaret Jelfs, Amazon reviewer about the novel – A child made to order

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

We are genetic Gods but what about our children?

If you want controversy about our future and the moral choices we are making about our species, then look no further than the topic of Biogenetics. Not only has the method of in vitro caused some extreme reactions from the more religiously inclined, but on the horizon we are beginning to see the dawn of the human made in the laboratory. And it’s causing a storm.

Serious science and technology press is touting the recent advancements notevolutionary but revolutionary.In the course of less than a decade have we gone from unprecise and methods with random results at best, to clinically precise incision into each and single gene. This coupled with the Genome project is beginning to give us limitless powers.The genetically engineered embryoes and babies are not science fiction stuff fare but the stuff which you and I will be forced to deal with in the next decade, if you want a healthy baby.If you think that’s a mouthful, listen to this.

The company Fertility industries which works with what they call “Balancing the family” will gladly help you out with your family. For a small sum of USD 10K they offer a treatment which will enable you to choose the sex of your child. The clinic guarantees almost 100% success rate and if it’s a failure there is even amoney back guarantee. How about that folks? The clinic supposedly also executes close to 400 of these treatments every year. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. As if the sex choice didn’t ring any alarm bells, the clinic also suggest you might wanna choose the color of your baby’s eyes or hair. Through the process of Preimplanation Diagnosis, the embryos are chosen and discarded in the name of beauty and parent’s whimsical estethic choices. The whole thing caused quite a public stir. At which the clinic decided to withdraw the abovementioned offer. But for how long and in what other shape will this appear in?

(This article originally appeared on the blog Storygeist.com)

I’m a big fan of this genre and this book doesn’t let me down. The suspense builds and flows in an engaging manner throughout and keeps you wanting to read on.  Ryczko is very good at portraying the characters with enough depth and flaws to make them feel believable.

Another thing Ryczko does well is to keep the story reined in enough to keep it on course. It could easily have gotten lost in the heartache of the characters and the morality aspects. As it is I feel he’s kept the balance just right.  The ending felt perhaps ever so slightly a little rushed to me, but that doens’t take away from the fact that I really enjoyed this first novel by Piotr Ryczko and I really look forward to more. 

Cathrine Farsett, Amazon reviewer about the novel – A child made to order

A not so clear divide after all

You would think that the ethical borders would be easy to set in this matter. Wouldn’t that be the easiest way to end this discussion? One thing is to cure serious diseases like cancer, Aids, Autism and Huntington but another are comsetical changes to our offspring with the goal of creating better versions of ourselves. Isn’t that clearly desginer babies at work? And aren’t we forgetting a simple fact, that children are not things or objects which can be manipulated at will, but living and breathing beings who deserve even more compassion, because of their fragile and semi-concious state. But the answers in these matters are still far from clear cut.

Despite that the genetic therapies can be the root to healing for even the most serious diseases, it is still very difficult to state if these modifications will not cause any unwanted side effects. And we are not just talking about some unwanted side effects which would be relatively easy to reveal at birth. But about side effects which could ripple downward several generations without being noticed at teh early stage. These side effects could show up even a 100 years later and have a devastating effect on not only a family but they could spread out all over the gene pool and contaminate it. How do you reverse this kind of Godlike enginnering? How do you undo God? So despite the best of intentions, we might be curing the most deadly of diseases or we might be playing with fire. A fire which will not be easy to put out.

 

(This article originally appeared on the blog Storygeist.com)

Good book. Kept me glued. Didn’t wanna put it down. You can feel some of the struggles of the women. Great Reading

Sarah Watkins. (Amazon customer) about the novel – A child made to order

All the best opportunites in this rat race called life

If we leave the whole gene therapy out of the equations. Just for a moment. Are we in the clear then? Or come to think of it, do we not make a ton of procreational choices now? Consciously or unconsciously, we do. Are we not prepared to supply our children with all kinds of minerals, vitamins, diet supplements. All this in the name of a healthier future for them. If we go further with this thinking, then the whole raising of our children is actually about these kind of choices. The best of schools, the best toys, and the best teachers, caretakers. All in all the best opportunites we as parents can afford. Who would want to save money on that? Would you? We as parents, feel naturally inclined and responsible to provide our children with the very best. So you could actually make an argument, why wouldn’t you want to give the same to your child before it was born? What’s wrong with that?

 

So if we backtrack a few steps here and conclude we want to stay with only curing the diseases. If that is out ethical border, then where exactly is it supposed to be placed? Let’s see another example which I think illustrates curing diseased is far from so ethically black and white. A deaf lesbian couple from Chicago decided to conciously choose the embryos which would give them children witth the same character traits of deafness as them. The couple were convinced that their lack of hearing wasn’t some kind of ailment but a natural human state. And they wished for their children to be exaclty like them.This case cuased a huge public stir and caused opposing ethical camps. And it’s still difficult to actually position one self in this matter. Is it the curing of a disease or simply causing irreversible damage to one’s offspring?

 

So what about our children? Are we to give them the best chance at a healthy life through different genetic manipulations? Or do we not only stop there but we supply our children with the best character and physical traits a life can give? Is it supposed to be regulated by the state or do we just leave it to the single family unit and their own moral compasses? And are we not moving dangerously close to the Hitler’s Eugenics program? How far are we prepared to go, morally and financially in this case?

 

(This article originally appeared on the blog Storygeist.com)

„A child made to order” is a suspense story, that keeps the reader on the edge of her seat. Author touches upon the problem of genetic engineering, skillfully interweaving it with childless women’s issues – exposing perfectly their feelings, fears and hopes at the same time. Great thriller, certainly one to recommend.

Emily. S. (Amazon customer) about the novel – A child made to order

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