Amanda Eyre Ward: The Nearness of You

In this profound and lyrical novel, acclaimed author Amanda Eyre Ward explores the deeper meanings of motherhood—from the first blissful hello to the heart-wrenching prospect of saying goodbye.

Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

Beautifully shifting between perspectives, The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

So here’s the deal. I almost didn’t make it past the first chapter. I even tweeted that I was fully prepared for this book to piss me off all the way through.

The premise of this book is that Suzette doesn’t want children. Her mother has a mental illness so bad that she is hospitalized (we never meet her), and Suzette also suffers from “issues.” Those issues are vague, but referred to throughout the book, and she’s deathly afraid of anyone close to her getting sick too. She was very clear on the first date with Hyland that she was not going to have children. They made a decision, she was firm on it, he seemed happy.

But after 15 years of marriage, he suddenly decided that he wanted a baby, and pretty much gaslights her into thinking she wants one too. So they get a surrogate. And then he spends the rest of the book making her feel HORRIBLE for being a successful pediatric surgeon with a busy schedule–even though she has ALWAYS BEEN a successful pediatric surgeon with a busy schedule.

This is my absolute worst nightmare–and my husband knows this–that he will suddenly decide 15 years into our marriage that he wants children. It is the cruelest thing a person could do, in my opinion–worse than cheating–to go against something so fundamental in your marriage foundation.

I know, I’m ranting, but this is all just to say that it soured my opinion of the book from the first chapter–and it only went downhill from there. I did finish it, and had that big nope in the beginning not happened…I don’t know, there were a few other things that made me go ehhhhhhhhh…

The story certainly has hooks, and I could see people liking this. But it has way more problems than good things.

NetGalley and Ballantine Books provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post does have affiliate links.

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Overwhelmed

Holy crap you guys. Thank you.

When I started this blog back in March, it was just a creative outlet for me. I had read The Happiness Project and I was determined that I was going to read more, better, harder. And I was going to write about it. I needed a way to increase the satisfaction and happiness that I got from reading and learn more from not just the books but also the people who read them.

I never expected people to actually pay attention to my silly little reviews.

But then, the more I wrote, the better I felt about what I was writing, and it started mattering to me. I started paying attention. My happiness project is working. I am learning, so much, and not just about books, but I’m so conscious about the world around me.

And that is why I’ve started posting more meaningful essays on here. At first, I was hesitant to do so, because they weren’t book related. But, they are important to me, and to my Happiness Project.

Then yesterday happened. I had written “A Lack of Baby Fever” because it is a message that is extremely personal to me, and it is one I want to share with women who 1) may be feeling the same way but don’t know how to express it, or 2) are maternal and don’t know how to communicate to those who are not. Somehow, my essay got posted to Reddit and oh my gawd. My little blog got so many hits you guys. SO MANY. I was in tears almost all day because I never believed THAT MANY PEOPLE would want to read, not just any post, BUT THAT POST. The response was overwhelming. From the commentor here, to the comments on Reddit, and the tweets and retweets.

And just now, I hit 200 followers. My silly little bookworm blog that I started just for me has 200 people who read regularly. And so I just wanted to say thank you. Because you probably have no idea how much writing this every day means to me. If I could hug each one of you, I totally would. I have some fun stuff planned coming up. More challenges, more books, of course, and definitely more essays, thoughts, etc. The blog is going to grow, as I am growing. Stay tuned!

A Lack of Baby Fever

A blog buddy of mine over at Pure Geekery posted yesterday about the battle between those who are childfree and those who are parents. After writing a very long comment in response, I thought I’d write my own post about it. This is something I haven’t yet blogged about here, because it is 1) not at all book related, and 2) a very personal topic. To see the original post that Nicole wrote, check it out here.

I will not be having children. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am married. And, as far as I am aware, I am capable. But, I will not be having children.

I say I, instead of we, because while my husband fully supports my decision on this, it is my body, and ultimately my decision. It is also a decision that was made, for the most part, long before he came into the picture. I’ve known since I was able to say baby that I was just missing whatever that THING is that maternal women have to make them great mothers. That need, that drive. I don’t have it. When someone would hand me a doll, I would look at it with incomprehension. Playing house to me meant building it, organizing it. It certainly did not mean taking care of babies.

However, the older I got, the more I realized how different I was. The societal pressure to have children is a real thing. Mommies are everywhere in our culture. I grew up in a very small town where, for the most part, the goal was to get married and have children. Sure, there was college and career goals. But, for women, many of those career goals all cycled back around to having kids. I don’t say that to cheapen it. Don’t get me wrong here. I have absolutely nothing against mommies, and certainly nothing against working moms. Dude, those women are killer. But, it’s what I heard, over and over and over again. Graduate, go to college, find a husband, have babies.

Why didn’t I feel that way? I wanted to travel! I wanted to read every book in the library! I wanted to see things, do things. Kids just were never on the agenda. I struggled with it for years while I was trying to figure out who I was.

When I met my first husband, the pressure became real. Over and over again, babies were on the menu for conversation. Every family gathering, every social event.

Now that I’m married again, those questions come up again, but because we’ve been more open about our intentions with our families, thankfully it’s a little easier this time. The questions mostly come from strangers making small talk.

Those conversations usually go one of three ways.

1. On rare occasions, I find someone who actually gets it, says ok, moves on to something else. They may ask why, but usually in this instance it’s a nonissue. I love these people. There should be more of them.

2. The person says, “Oh, I bet you change your mind. Having babies is the most important thing.” These people I want to smack. Because it isn’t the most important thing, not to me. See above. I have a loving husband. I read, I love to travel. My life is AWESOME.

3. Flat out judgement. These are pretty rare too, thankfully. But I’ve experienced them. They think I am broken, damaged. Something is clearly wrong with me. These are the conversations that shake me, make me questions myself.

 

Now that I’ve told you all that, to address Nicole’s article. I agree with almost everything she said. I wish this was a much smaller issue than it is. I wish there was not such a big divide between the women who have children, and the women who don’t have children. I realize it hurts people outside of those of us who are able to actually make a choice in this matter. I don’t want that. I know too many people in my circle who have struggled, to ever intentionally hurt them. I wish that not having children was more socially acceptable so that women were not instantly asked the question, “Oh, when are you having children?” It would solve so many problems.

This is a very real, very personal issue for me. This is not a fake fight, not for me. There are many women in this world feeling the pressure to have children who know that it is not the right path for them. I have made my own choices. And I am absolutely happy in those decisions. But that does not mean that it hurts less to be judged sometimes. And if I am vocal about my choices, or stand up for what I believe in, it is so younger girls know that it’s ok to feel this way too. You can make decisions for your own mind and body. They are important decisions. Think hard on them, think long on them. Don’t take them lightly. But you do not have to do what everyone else is doing.