Title: The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In this profound and lyrical novel, acclaimed author Amanda Eyre Ward explores the deeper meanings of motherhood—from the first blissful hello to the heart-wrenching prospect of saying goodbye.
Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.
Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selection, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.
Beautifully shifting between perspectives, The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.
In The Nearness of You, Amanda Eyre Ward explores the intricacies of motherhood and surrogacy.
Due to her family’s history of mental illness, cardiac surgeon Suzette Kendall decided early in life that she would not have children. Her husband of fifteen years, Hyland, finally made peace with her decision before they married but he has recently had a change of heart. Although she is not completely convinced motherhood is right for her, she and Hyland decide to use his sperm to impregnate a surrogate. After selecting twenty-one year old Dorrie Muscarello to carry their baby, will Suzette and Hyland’s dream of becoming a family come true?
Suzette’s childhood with a mentally ill mother was quite a nightmare and her decision to not have kids of her own was solidified after she experienced difficulties during college. Not once in all the years of her marriage has she regretted the decision and she never had any reason to believe that Hyland would change his mind. Suzette has serious reservations about adding to their family, but she wants to make Hyland happy so in spite of her ambiguous feelings about parenthood, she agrees to her husband’s plan.
Suzette and Hyland’s search for a surrogate is more complicated than they believed so they ignore the agency’s warning that Dorrie might be a risky choice since she is relatively young and childless. Her reasons for becoming a surrogate are financially motivated since she dreams of going to college in order to escape her rather dismal life. The first insemination attempt is successful, the pregnancy is progressing smoothly and the Kendall’s are excited about Dorrie’s upcoming ultrasound.
From the prologue, readers are aware that something horrible has happened but what that could be remains unclear. The first chapter then goes back to the point where Suzette and Hyland decide to have a baby and then follows the search for a surrogate and subsequent pregnancy until the point right before Dorrie’s ultrasound. The second part of the novel follows what happens next and these chapters unfold from various characters’ points of view. The third part of the novel fast forwards back to the present and recounts the series of events leading up to the prologue.
An insightful glimpse into the difficulties and pitfalls of surrogacy, The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward is a well-written novel that tugs on the heartstrings. The characters are richly drawn and mostly sympathetic despite some of the choices they make. While not everything that happens throughout the story is completely unexpected, there are some nice twists and turns that are thought-provoking. The novel’s conclusion is a little abrupt and unsatisfying and readers will left wondering what comes next for the characters.