Title: The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal
Publisher: Terrace Books, University of Wisconsin Press
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother? Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.
As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American home rebuilder. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?
In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”
Michael Lowenthal’s The Paternity Test is an incredibly compelling and absorbing novel that impossible is to put down. I planned on reading about half the book, but instead I wound up staying up until 3 AM because I just HAD to know how this fabulous story ends. And boy, was it well worth losing a little sleep to finish it.
Pat Faunce and Stu Nadler have a committed but open relationship. In the early years of their relationship, both indulged in casual hookups, but in recent years, Pat remains faithful while Stu continues to stray. Pat’s solution to Stu’s infidelity is to move to Cape Cod, reconnect with one another and start a family. The plan seems to be working; Pat and Stu are closer than ever and Stu’s wandering days seem to be over. The time is finally right for the men to take the next step and begin the process of finding a surrogate to carry their baby.
As Pat and Stu soon discover, surrogacy is not to be undertaken lightly. The expense involved is tremendous and the legalities are complex and oftentimes murky. There are psychological issues to consider as well as physical limitations that are often imposed on the surrogate. What should be a straight forward legal agreement quickly becomes complicated by unexpected emotion as they go through the ups and downs of trying to conceive.
Pat and Stu are realistic characters with flaws and failings that make them easy to relate to. Their honesty with one another is refreshing and sometimes unexpected given their sometimes rocky history. Their relationship is fascinating and I love how the dynamic between them completely shifts by the end of the book.
The Paternity Test is beautiful and emotional read that provides a fascinating look into one couple’s struggle to become a family. It is a captivating and thought-provoking novel with appealing characters and a unique storyline. Michael Lowenthal takes what I thought would be a predictable (but never boring) story in a shocking and unanticipated direction and absolutely floored me with its conclusion.
An absolutely amazing novel that I highly recommend.