This book is written around a subject I'd never think I'd feel much empathy with at all - surrogacy and the desperate need for a baby which can take over a couples life. Being Childfree by choice, without a single maternal bone in my body I've never been able to understand what the urgency to procreate is all about.
This book goes some way towards giving me an insight to what it might be like to feel your life is incomplete without the patter of tiny feet, as Claire is experiencing huge distress after yet another humiliating and soul destroying failed attempt at ivf and resulting early miscarriage. Her husband Ben completely misses the point as to why she feels unable to continue trying and experiencing the resulting failure over and over and pours out his heart to his best mate, his platonic long time female friend Romily, rather laddish, sport loving and total opposite to girly nest making home loving Claire, already a single Mum to precocious Posie (the only character in the book I actually liked)
When over a pint together Romily rather rashly offers to be a surrogate mother for the couple, Ben seizes on her conceiving through artificial insemination and carrying his child to full term for him and Claire as the perfect solution. Claire who doesn't know Romily quite so well as Ben, understandably has her doubts. But they go ahead and find that far from being the ideal solution this decision has its own far reaching consequences for all of them.
For Romily is hiding a secret of which Ben and Claire have no idea and must never know - She is and always has been deeply in love with Ben - so much that she will do ANYTHING to keep him happy even if that means bearing his child and giving it away at the end of the pregnancy ...
This story is about feelings and secrets and a bunch of characters I think Id actually loathe in real life allowing the reader a glimpse into their complicated relationships and fragmented world and its done with huge panache, the readability factor is great I just couldn't put it down once I'd begun reading and would recommend it to women of any age parents or not who enjoy a really well written drama.
The author has tackled this emotive and rather controversial subject head on and brings to the fore issues which are bound to arise when surrogacy is entered into and made it into a clever and hugely enjoyable read.
Every so often, there is a book that captures your attention and makes you so excited to read it that everything else goes out of the window once it arrives. That was certainly the case for me and Julie Cohen's brand new novel, Dear Thing. Yes, I had loved her 2012 release The Summer of Living Dangerously, but it wasn't even that which made me so keen to read this new book. I had just really loved the synopsis of this, and the idea of it really drew me in, because I couldn't fathom how one woman could offer to do such an amazing thing for another woman, then take it away again at the last minute. I had an idea this book wouldn't be an easy read, and I was right, but my God was it a truly great one.
Married couple Claire and Ben have it all - all except children that is. They've been trying for many years to have their own baby, but sadly things have never happened for them. After a final failed attempt at IVF, Claire decides she has had enough and accepts her life without children in it, despite her pain. When Ben's best friend Romily hears of this, she immediately offers to be a surrogate for them, carrying a baby to term for them and then handing it over once it's born. But Romily has secretly been in love with Ben for years and years. Being pregnant with Ben's baby suddenly brings all her feelings flooding back to the surface, and she's unsure she can go through with the plan. Claire is desperate to have this baby, sure it's only chance to raise her husband's child. What will happen to the baby with 2 mothers who are both desperate to have it?
As you can tell just from the synopsis of the book, it's a quite controversial topic and one that is sure to stir up a lot of emotion in people, both good and bad towards the characters, in particular Romily. Cohen opens the book with Claire and Ben, telling us a bit about their history and letting the reader straight away understand their pain in not being able to have children, and how it is affecting them as a couple. As a mum myself, it's hard to understand the pain of someone who can't have children, but you can't help but sympathise with Claire and Ben, and the extreme efforts they go to conceive themselves. In fact, this only makes what Romily does all the more worse I think! Claire is written so well, she has changed her life in order to be a mum, and I felt desperately sorry for her, and you can understand why she is ready to give up her hopes - she simply can't take the pain and sadness anymore. Cohen doesn't shy away from making Ben's pain and upset just as real too - often the dad-to-be can be forgotten in all the sadness, but he is just as sad as Claire that he can't be a father.
Romily is Ben's best friend, and I found her character very interesting to read about. She has her own daughter Posie, but the pair have a very peculiar relationship. Posie calls her Romily, not mum, and Romily admits she isn't overly maternal, preferring her insects to her daughter at times - she struggles with simply remembering to pay for her daughter's lunch. She seems to make the decision to have a baby for Claire and Ben seemingly too easily and follows it through without thinking of the real consequences of it, and I really did dislike her at points. You can understand her hurting because of her love for Ben, and her desperation to keep the baby is quite sad, you do feel sorry for her, but at the same time, knowing how much Claire wants and can't have a baby, I couldn't make peace with what Romily wanted.
I'm sure there are going to be so many different viewpoints about this book, and I can't wait to hear about what other people think once the book has been read and have had a chance to think the ideas through. Cohen's writing is brilliant - she is able to dive right into the mind's of the main three characters, and provoke such strong reaction from her readers about them. I, for example, liked Ben a lot but wished he would grow a backbone and see things from Claire's side about Romily. He does seem a bit naive but again it's understandable given the circumstances. You're left in limbo right up until the end wondering what decision Romily is going to make, and it did feel like an emotional rollercoaster of a read! The story jumps about between Romily and Claire's stories, but it's so easy to follow and just a joy to read and devour!
This is simply one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I am sure it is one which will stay with me for a long, long time, and I know I will be reading it again too. Dear Thing isn't afraid to dive into the harsh realities of surrogacy, and how everyone involved suffers through the pain of the decisions that can be made, and how nothing is ever as straight-forward as it seems. Despite the fact there is only a few characters through the whole book, it is so intrinsically focused on these characters you don't need anymore - you only want to read about Romily, Ben and Claire and to hope for a happy ending for everyone involved. Cohen's writing was simply brilliant and allowed me to devour the book at such a pace, I just couldn't put it down once I started reading. I hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I have, it's brilliant and I can't recommend it highly enough. Grab a copy of Dear Thing right now, you won't regret it!
ISBN: 978-0593070826. Published by Bantam Press on April 11th 2013. Pages: 400. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you for reading and to the publishers for sending me a review copy for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com