When I first picked up Dear Thing by Julie Cohen, I was skeptical. Completely, one eyebrow raised, doubtful it was going to be good skeptical. Knowing it had something to do with infertility and surrogacy, I was finding it hard to buy into a book about such a sensitive subject. As someone who has experienced infertility and the many emotions it evokes, I was slightly on the defense about any author who would take that on. I (wrongly, as it happens) assumed infertility was merely a vehicle to carry a love triangle storyline and, having far more experience with infertility than I’d prefer, I was leery of such a move. But then, two chapters in, I had to stop reading and google the author because not only was infertility the focus, I felt sure she’d had personal experience from which to pull and, as she explains in the video below, I was right on target.
Through the lives of Ben and Claire (a couple dealing with infertility) and Romily (their friend who offers to have their baby for them as a surrogate), Cohen hits all of those depressing, infertility milestones:
- The avoidance: “She hadn’t gone to the christening, not to avoid the babies but to avoid the understanding.”
- The grief: “She was tired of feeling the sharp stab of pain every time she passed a playground. That raw ache of yearning at Christmas. She was tired of feeling like a failure, once a month, like clockwork.”
- The effect on a marriage: “(A baby) would make up for any blip in their sex life. Or the several blips over the years as they’d adjusted from thinking of sex as something fun, to thinking of it as something that was supposed to make babies but didn’t.”
- The rewriting of imagined futures: “They’d talked about names a long time ago, when they thought it would be easy to have children.”
- The exhaustion: “‘I’m through…With all of this. The dieting to stay at the optimum BMI for fertility, the hormones, the injections. The down-regulating and the stimulations. Peeing on sticks. Having my eggs taken out of me and fertilized in a test tube and put back into me.'”
- The devastating hope: “‘Our plans are hurting me. I’ve thought constantly about having a baby for so long. And that’s not the worst thing: the worst thing is having hope. Every cycle, I’d get to hoping this was the one, this time it was going to happen. And then… nothing.”
Though I found the story so deeply engaging I would heartily recommend it to a reader inexperienced with infertility, I personally found it a lovely read because it felt so refreshing to read a fictional account of my all too familiar nonfictional experience. I could relate to so many of the emotions; it easily drew me into each of the characters and the ways in which infertility altered them. None of it felt forced or cheesy, which is saying an awful lot for a book about a love triangle and infertility!
One word of caution: I am writing this as a woman experienced with infertility, a point of view from which I have first person perspective. I do think it is important to note that in this book surrogacy and adoption are constant themes. I mention this because, though I am unable to comment on how an adoptee may feel upon reading this book, I could see it possibly triggering strong emotions.
Overall, this was a beautiful read, particularly for a reader with personal experience with infertility or for a reader with a loved one experiencing it. Dear Thing left me more than pleasantly surprised. Well done Julie Cohen, for writing a book managing to speak to the heart of such a difficult experience and making beauty from your own painful story. A smile of understanding and appreciation from this comforted reader.
****I am so excited to have been given the opportunity by St. Martin’s Griffin to give away 5 advance copies of this book! To enter to win, head over to my Instagram account or Facebook page (see links at top right of the blog). You may enter at both for two chances to win. Last day to enter is March 5th. Winners will be chosen at random and notified on March 6th.****
**This book was sent to me via St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of this book.**