Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Claire and Ben have a seemingly ideal life - good jobs, a beautiful house, and what seems to be a strong relationship. But they've been trying to have a baby for years, and it's starting to take a toll on them and their marriage. After yet another failed round of IVF, Claire is done. She cannot put her body (and her heart) through this pain yet again. Ben is upset and not ready to give up. So when his best friend, Romily, drunkenly offers to act as a surrogate for the couple, Ben jumps on it! Why not? Romily -- already a single mom to Posie -- seems like the perfect choice, after all. And Romily does want to give Ben and Claire the baby they so desire. But if she really admits it, she really wants to give *Ben* this baby: Ben, whom Romily has secretly loved since university. Will Romily really be able to give up this baby? And, can she give up Ben?
This was a lovely and fascinating book, which I devoured in the span of about 24 hours. It's an extremely quick read with well-drawn characters who immediately pull you into the story. Having struggled with infertility myself, I certainly identified with Claire, but also found pieces of Romily and Ben to love as well. One of the strengths of Cohen's book is that there is no one true "winner" here - you don't go in and immediately find yourself rooting for one of the women and their "side," which I think benefits the entire book and its storyline.
Some of the plot is almost a little too unbelievable (and sometimes I'd like to swat clueless Ben in the head), but most of it is made up for by the realism of the characters and their emotions. Claire, especially, in her fertility struggle, is true to form, as is Romily, as she struggles with her feelings for Ben. Romily's young daughter Posie is a wonderful character - you will immediately fall for spirited, sweet Posie.
To me, the only weakness of this book was the ending, which seemed a little to pat and simplified for all the complicated emotions the characters had been struggling with throughout. That's the only thing preventing a 4-star rating. Still, a solid 3.5 read and, really, a lovely and worthwhile book. It gets you out of your head for a bit.
I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley (thank you!); it is available for U.S. publication on 3/29.
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