By: Amanda Eyre Ward
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2/21/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
What does it take to be a real mother? With highly charged topics, Ward delves deeply into the emotions of the human psyche and what it takes to be a family. A surrogate young girl goes missing, disrupting the lives of all that are near and dear to the unborn child.
Set in Houston, Texas –Hyland and Suzette Kendell are married and celebrating their anniversary. It is the year, 2000 and the couple have been married for fifteen years and approaching forty years of age.
Suzette is a successful heart surgeon and Hyland an architect. He came from a horrific childhood and he would love to have children and a family. His parents had been killed in a car accident when he was eleven and grew up in the foster care system. He now works from home and desperately wants a family.
However, workaholic Suzette had been upfront from the beginning, she did not want children. Her mom was mentally ill and in an institution. She most likely would always remain there until she died.
Her father had died years earlier and her mom went a little crazy- erratic and paranoid, causing serious trauma for Suzette during her childhood. She too was sick in college; however, controls it with her meds. They continue to keep her mother in a nice facility and sometimes she tells herself her mom is really dead.
Suzette does not want to pass this sickness to children. She wants it to end here. She could not be the easy, breezy, fertile wife Hyland might have wanted; however, she would not be made to feel that she was lacking.
They are now ready for surrogacy. Hyland would sire a child. He was delighted with the opportunity of becoming a father. He would medically impregnate someone younger who would carry the baby to term. Suzette could keep working without interruption. It was a win-win. Or so she thought.
Suzette panicked and was scared, similar to PTSD, due to her own childhood dramas. They find what they think is the perfect candidate and was going to pay her $35,000 to cover the cost. However, the gal backs out due to Suzette being busy with work. She was not going to apologize for doing her job.
In the meantime, Suzette deals with life and death daily. Giving life after ending life with tragedy at the hospital. She cared deeply for her patients and she connected better with the babies than the adults. Each was a reminder.
Months pass and there is another candidate. This girl was much younger and inexperienced. She had never been married and never had a child, like the first candidate.
As a last resort, they decide on Dorrie (age 21). She gets pregnant quickly. We hear from different POVs. She worked at Sea-o-Rama feeding penguins. She wanted to escape her life and get off Galveston Island. She could finally move away from her mother and her dull disappointment—away from the stories about her deadbeat dad. It meant a bigger life: college, and a chance to succeed. When she had seen the ad, she knew this was the only way to attain money for college. A way out.
However, could she lease her body, and then hand over her child? She would trade nine months of her life. She earned less than $10.00 hour at her current job. The gift of life. It was love versus money. Which would win out in the end? Could she go through with it? Or escape?
She could drive away from Texas and make a life on Grand Isle, Louisiana. She needed to escape her own sad mom’s depression and alcoholism. However, without money, how would she live and support herself and her unborn child? How will Suzette and Hyland go on knowing their child was out there somewhere?
Dorrie is a dreamer and wants to wrap herself around books and living in a seaside cottage. She dreams of a life with her baby. She is immature and not thinking of how. She cannot live in a motel with no money, especially when this couple had money and would have the cops or PIs after her.
On the run, she meets another lonely girl, Jayne taking care of her own disturbed junkie prostitute mom. Another young girl, trying to escape her surroundings for a better life. Will they find solace in one another? Jayne is intrigued by the girl in room 29. They hit the road together.
Later when an illness arrives, and more problems, things change. However, there are still some secrets which are not revealed until the end.
The author takes us on a hauntingly beautiful emotional heartfelt journey. Told with compassion - from tragedy, pain, loss, and love. What it means to be a mother. A family. When matters of the heart are conflicted. From “The Nearness of You" an old Ella Fitzgerald song, to a desperate search for a mother.
Can a woman who fixes hearts mend one close to her own? Fast forward fifteen years later.
Every character is searching for a mother’s love and acceptance. Guilt. A yearning for atonement. Courage. Your heart goes out to all the flawed characters (they do make some poor choices); a situation when there seems there is no easy way out. Someone will be hurt. What it takes to be a family. They are not always the traditional ones.
I loved the quote: “The mother is the one who stays in the room.” (no matter how difficult, when she wants to run and hide).
I read two moving and beautiful books in a row about motherhood. They come in all shapes and sizes each with their own set of struggles. Highly recommend both: Amanda Eyre Ward’s THE NEARNESS OF YOU and Sally Hepworth’s The Mother's Promise.
A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.