The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Suzette and Hyland have a happy marriage and a busy life when Hyland surprises his wife with the news that he really wants a child. Married fifteen years, children had always been off the table, as Suzette did not want to pass on the genes of her mother, a woman who gave Suzette a horrifying and unstable childhood and eventually wound up in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a new solution: what if they use a surrogate, with his sperm and a surrogate's egg? Suzette, a busy and successful heart surgeon, reluctantly agrees. Even though there are some red flags, the couple eventually chooses young Dorrie, a woman who wants to use the surrogate fees to go to college. Dorrie and Hyland bond, and Suzette realizes she must get on board with the idea. But soon Dorrie will make some decisions that will affect everyone in this new trio.
I am a bit conflicted about this novel. Ward wrote The Same Sky, which is a beautiful novel and one everyone should read in this current political climate. It's hard not to compare others to that magical book, and this one did fall short. She does, however, have a way of weaving stories with her words, and while I wasn't nearly as attached to the characters in this novel, I still found myself reading the last half of the book somewhat compulsively.
The novel started out slow, but picked up about 1/4 through, with a twist in the plot. It's told from a shifting rotation of perspectives, including Suzette, Dorrie, and Hyland. There are some large shifts in time as the novel progresses, which did make it harder to attach to some of the characters. None of the plot twists are exactly surprise, as they are foreshadowed a bit in each character's description: this is more of a character-driven novel versus a shocking dramatic novel. Still, even though I tore through the last half of the novel, I just felt the book lacked something, and I felt a tad let down by a story and characters that weren't completely fully developed (the ending is a bit abrupt as well). I enjoyed the perspectives on motherhood that the novel offered, but felt there could be more. That's not to say the novel isn't worth reading; Ward is a wonderful writer, but I just felt a little perplexed and frustrated when this one ended. I had hoped for more.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 02/21/2017.
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