Published by Bantam on 11-04-2013
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.
Claire and Ben’s relationship seems perfect, and they have everything they’ve always wanted…except a child. Neither of them ever thought it would be so difficult to conceive, and yet after years of IVF, miscarriages, a small fortune and more tears than either of them can count, they still haven’t managed what other couples seem to achieve with barely a thought. Clare is finally ready to give up. Until now, she’s always told Ben, ‘one more try’ and he’s agreed, despite some misgivings. This time though, Claire has had enough, and she just can’t face anymore heartbreak. When Ben’s best friend Romily drunkenly offers to be a surrogate, he desperately wants them to go for it. He can’t possibly turn away from this one last chance, and so Claire, Romily and Ben agree to give it a try.
Dear Thing is beautifully written, and I loved the letters (The Dear Thing from the title), which give you a different perspective on what’s going on. The letters are emotional and revealing, and although you aren’t 100% sure who they’re from, it slowly becomes clear. They’ll make you smile, they’ll make you cry, and they’ll make your heart ache for the people that want this baby so desperately.
Claire was a lovely character, and you just couldn’t help but feel for her. The whole way through the book my heart ached for Claire. This woman who would make a wonderful mother, who just wants a child with the husband she loves, and who has no idea that Romily is also in love with her husband. She felt a bit naive at times, but more than anything I just wanted her to get her happy ending.
What to say about Ben? There were times when I loved him, and times when I hated him. He sometimes felt like a secondary character in Dear Thing, like the book was really all about Romily and Claire, rather than Ben himself.
At first I was really worried I would hate Romily, because I felt like she was voluntarily signing herself up for heartbreak, and also like she might be agreeing to surrogacy purely to get Ben’s attention. As the novel progressed though, I began to feel for her; as she forms a slow, cautious friendship with Clare, as she deals with the ups and downs of being pregnant, as she faces whispers for her decision, and as she tries to raise her own little girl as best as she can.
Posie, Romily’s daughter, brings some lightness to the story. She’s a complicated child, ridiculously intelligent and blunt, but still just a child after all. Romily is not like Claire who bakes cakes and throws great birthday parties, and she sometimes feels like her and Posie just don’t know how to communicate, which is sad but also real and honest and emotional. The relationship between Posie and Romily, although not the central theme of Dear Thing, is a wonderful, and the slow bonding of their family is beautifully, delicately done.
I think it says a lot for Julie Cohen’s writing that she managed to create a book fundamentally about babies (the desire for them, the inability to have them, the ups and downs of being pregnant with them etc etc) that managed to hook me in – despite being 22 and completely and utterly not maternal (I’d rather have a puppy). The emotions are so well portrayed, the relationships so delicately balanced and so believably changed by the events of the story. Dear Thing made me laugh, it made me cry, it infuriated me and it kept my dying to know how things would work out.
Buy it? This is one I’d probably buy on a deal or borrow, because I’m not sure I’d re-read it.
In a nutshell: A beautifully written, emotional story of family, friendship and love.