Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

The weather is warmer today. Which meant I could get outside reading again! I did need to wear my hoodie but that’s ok…

I was reading a review copy (received from Transworld in exchange for an honest review) of Dear Thing by Julie Cohen. I’d read the first maybe 14% (kindle book) on the train a few days ago. I sat and read the remainder in pretty much one hit sat outside this afternoon (stopping only for five mins to speak to my dog walking neighbour). My kindle kept flashing low battery messages but I couldn’t bring myself to put it down and I was just hoping it would last till I finished. Which it did, thankfully.

Here’s the synopsis:
Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they’ve been desperately trying – and failing – to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire’s ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben’s best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben’s child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she’s kept hidden for a very long time: Ben’s the only man she’s ever loved.

Two mothers-and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.

In case it wasn’t obvious from the fact I read 86% of this in just over two hours this afternoon I should start by saying I liked this and it really drew me in. Whilst it’s not the most compelling of the books I’ve read recently (that was The Fault In Our Stars by John Green) I never reached a point where I thought “right, enough of that, time to go check twitter do something constructive”. And that’s unusual when I’m reading. It was certainly not what I’d expected from this book. I’d thought I’d like it but I’d anticipated it being a bit of a difficult one.

There are obviously a few moral issues in this book. I don’t think a book about surrogacy could exist without them. Although writing this it occurs to me that it could if it was set in a dystopia where only surrogates are used (similar to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) but then in the idea that’s come to me there’d be someone who wanted to carry their own child and there would be moral issues around that. That would be epic. I love dystopian fiction.

Anyway, back on topic now.

There are some moral issues but much less so than I expected. And they treat the whole surrogacy much more informally too. I’d assumed surrogacy always involved lawyers and being fiction this didn’t. Much more so than anything else this is a book about relationships between different people and about how they change as our experiences shape us and we grow as people.

The title, Dear Thing, comes from the fact that a big plot point resolves around some letters Romily writes to the baby – lovingly called Thing – whilst she’s pregnant. I loved that. I just thought the idea of calling him Thing was so cute.
I’d definitely read more by Julie Cohen as Dear Thing put me in mind of books by Diane Chamberlain. That’s one of my favourite authors at the moment.

One thought on “Dear Thing by Julie Cohen”

  1. “I’d assumed surrogacy always involved lawyers and being fiction this didn’t.”

    In the UK, surrogacy is necessarily informal because it doesn’t really exist within the law. It is very very illegal to pay someone to carry a pregnancy and there’s no contract you can sign where you’d be legally bound to hand over a child you haven’t yet given birth too – that would be very Rumplestiltskin. The only legal stuff comes at the point of adoption, so if a surrogate mother changes her mind at any point before then, that’s that. So in this sense, the book sounds very realistic.

    I always enjoy your book reviews. 🙂

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