Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
About this book: (from the publisher) After years of watching her best friends Ben and Claire try for a baby, Romily has offered to give them the one thing that they want most.
Romily expects it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and she has no desire for any more children. But Romily isn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings that have taken hold of her and which threaten to ruin her friendship with Ben and Claire-and even destroy their marriage.
Now there are three friends, two mothers and only one baby, and an impossible decision to make…
Thought-provoking, heart-rending but ultimately uplifting, Julie Cohen’s Dear Thing is a book you won’t be able to put down, until you pass it on to your best friends.
About the author: Julie Cohen grew up in Maine and studied English at Brown University and Cambridge University. She then moved to the UK permanently, where she taught English before becoming a writer. Her books have won or been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the HOLT Medallion. She now writes full-time and teaches creative writing. She lives with her husband and son in Berkshire, England, where she is teased daily about her American accent. Dear Thing is her first novel to be published in North America.
Genre: Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Contemporary
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13+ for mature themes, occasional profanity
Content advisory: frank but not gratuitous discussion of sex, surrogacy, infertility, and pregnancy
Reminds me of: Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd
[Tweet “Heartwarming women’s fiction at its best #DearThing @Julie_Cohen”]
Reflection: Three things drew me to this book: 1) the cover. Love. 2) the premise: infertility and surrogacy, with all the moral, ethical, and emotional complexity they entail. 3) the tagline: “Two women. Both desperate for the same baby. Both in love with the same man.” With stakes like that, how could this story possibly end well? Made me want to dive right in to find out.
What I found? Women’s fiction at its heartwarming best. Women’s fiction isn’t always heartwarming. Sometimes it’s gritty, or insightful, or romantic. Often, it doesn’t have a particularly happy ending. But this one–well, this one had some of all of that. It was exceptional in a way that rather got under my skin.
Probably because I’ve been there. For many years, I was Claire. Not to the point of engaging a surrogate, but the infertility stuff, the gut-twisting longing for motherhood? I can relate.
I enjoyed each of the equal-but-opposite, strong female protagonists. I naturally identified with Claire but found it impossible not to like Romily, despite (because of?) the trouble she creates for herself.
I also liked the structural device of giving each chapter a title. I don’t often see this done in the types of books I read, and where I have seen it, it can be a distraction. Here, however, it actually added to the narrative.
I had favorite moments, too, including The Secret Mission, Home, and The Mother Theme. I surprised myself by getting a little teary, in fact — which, I promise you, doesn’t happen very often.
As I neared the end, I could envision one of three ways the story might go, and while one of those endings I definitely did not want, I could see myself satisfied with either of the other two. The author kept me guessing to the very end and managed to leave me happy.
I liked this book — a lot — and look forward to reading more from Julie Cohen.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: Taglines. They’re teasers, and when they’re well done, they add to the overall effect of the novel. What’s one you’ve seen recently that has drawn you in?