Talking about Dear Thing by Julie Cohen with Chrissi
Published July 30, 2014 by bibliobeth
What’s it all about?:
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.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: This book strikes me as something that you wouldn’t necessarily have picked up had it not been for the Richard and Judy book club. Do you think you would have read this book had it not been picked?
BETH: To be honest, I don’t think I would have rushed to read this book. Not saying that I didn’t enjoy it, because I thought it was a beautiful read, but there seems to be a lot of this kind of fiction around at the moment in the contemporary genre, and the story didn’t seem like it would stand out. I’m glad that I was proved wrong however as it’s a story that pulled me in from the very first page and kept me reading until the end.
BETH: Throughout the novel, we see notes to “Thing,” the unborn child. How did this fit in with the story and was it enjoyable?
CHRISSI: For me, I felt that it worked. I actually wouldn’t have minded seeing more letters to ‘Thing’. I think it would have really expressed the character’s feelings really well. To me, it didn’t make the story feel stilted at all. Instead, it gave a more emotional impact.
CHRISSI: Discuss how the difficulty of having a baby affects Claire and Ben differently.
BETH: For me, it seemed like Claire and Ben were on different pages regarding trying to have a baby from the start. Claire is obviously devastated when their attempts, both naturally and using IVF fail and is ready to give up. Ben meanwhile is devastated that she would think of giving up when he is ready to give it another shot. I thought it was quite selfish on Ben’s part in a way, as it was poor Claire that had to undergo all the uncomfortable processes of both the fertility testing and the IVF treatment and she also experienced the physical effects of what losing an embryo feels like. Claire also feels a tremendous guilt as she has been told that it is because a fault in her eggs that they cannot conceive whereas Ben knows he is perfectly “healthy.”
BETH: Discuss the differences between Romily and Claire and how their “parenting styles” contrast.
CHRISSI: Ooh, good question. I feel like Romily had a much more laid back style to parenting. I feel like because she was on her own, without Posie’s dad around she could parent however she wished. Whereas having a baby was something that Claire really, really wanted and hadn’t yet had. I think she probably had thought a lot about how she would do things differently if she was Posie’s parent. Perhaps Claire’s view of parenting was a bit idyllic. It’s certainly harder than it looks, especially on your own. I think Claire was more of a structured, controlled parent whereas Romily was more carefree. There’s no right or wrong way, of course! Despite their differences in parenting styles, Posie was a well brought up, happy girl and that’s the main thing.
CHRISSI: Could you connect with all of the characters?
BETH: I found it quite easy to connect and identify with the two main female leads, Claire and Romily despite the difference in their personalities. To be honest, I found it quite difficult at times because I understood where both women were coming from and saw both of their points of view so it was quite heart-breaking to know that one of them may miss out where a child is concerned. I found it a bit more tricky to connect with Ben as I found him quite selfish at points and thought he didn’t really consider or respect either woman’s feelings.
BETH: The father of Romily’s child Posie comes back into the picture, how did this affect the story in your opinion if at all?
CHRISSI: I’m torn with this question, because my personal opinion is that everyone should know who their father is, even if they aren’t the nicest person in the world. I don’t think it necessarily made the story any better though. It was nice that Posie got to know her father, but I think if he hadn’t been in the story, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
CHRISSI: Do you think that this book is more centred towards women? Would men enjoy it?
BETH: I hate to gender stereotype, but I do think this novel falls perfectly in the contemporary women’s fiction genre. This is because I think a lot of women will be able to identify with the female characters easier than a man might. As to whether men would enjoy it, I’m really not sure! Perhaps a certain type of man who is comfortable reading this kind of fiction? Or perhaps men who are going through fertility treatment with their partners as it may help them understand what their other half is going through.
BETH: Put yourself in the position of the three central characters. What do you think you would do in their situation?
CHRISSI: Another good question. Oh, it must be so hard to be Claire. To want children so badly and to know that it’s a problem with YOU, must be heart-breaking. I’m not sure I could have a surrogate, I think I’d really struggle with the emotions and wanting to be pregnant myself. I think if I was unlucky enough to be in Claire’s position, I’d have to consider adoption. It’s a tough one though. As for Romily, I thought her reasons for the surrogacy were really heartfelt, but she wasn’t in the best position emotionally to consider having a baby for someone else. It wasn’t a well thought through process! I think if I was considering being a surrogate I’d have to seriously consider the pros and cons and not just jump into it. If I was Ben, I’d try to be a hell of a lot less selfish then he was!
CHRISSI: Explore Romily’s offer to be a surrogate and what motivates her to do it.
BETH: Romily already has a child of school age, Posie, and she has had quite a tough time as a single mother, trying to raise her child on her own while completing a PhD and working full-time. As a result, she does not see any more children in her immediate future. She has also been head over heels in love with her best friend Ben for as long as she can remember which is a bit of a problem when he’s married to Claire and trying to have a baby. Seeing Ben broken-hearted when Claire wants to give up trying for a baby leads her to offer to become a surrogate for them without fully thinking through the implications of such an offer (and perhaps having one too many drinks!). Once offered though it is a bit difficult to take it back, especially when she sees the happiness on Ben’s face. Having a baby with the man she loves seems perfect to her irrational state of mind, even if she has to give the baby away to Ben and Claire, it all seems worth it.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I would. I thought the writing style was very engaging!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):