Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
Dear Thing, by Julie Cohen, is a beautifully written book about friendship, about family and, ultimately, about love. At the centre of this story is Romily. She is best friends with Ben, who is married to Claire. Ben and Claire are the perfect couple, but for one thing: in spite of trying for years, they have been unable to have a baby. Just as Claire is ready to give up, Romily offers to be a surrogate mother for them – easy. After all, she is already a single mother and has no desire to have any more children.
Of course, the idea of carrying someone else’s baby is far easier than actually doing it. Especially when Romily – secretly – has been in love with Ben for many, many years, and now, his child is growing inside her. Both Romily and Claire feel a growing maternal love for the baby that belongs to both of them, for the baby of the man they both love. Only one of them, however, can keep it.
Cohen has drawn some lovely characters in Dear Thing. I felt for each of the women, for very different reasons. There was Claire’s tangible desperation and disappointment. Then there was Romily’s conflict, caught between her well meaning generosity and her need to be true to her own feelings. I adored Romily as a mother, and found her daughter, Posie, utterly delightful. This incredibly complicated and intelligent girl, wise beyond her years, was the breath of fresh air in the story, a reminder, I think, of what it’s all about. This mother-daughter relationship is a beautiful and precious one, and couldn’t have been more perfectly portrayed.
Dear Thing raises some important and complex questions about the issue of surrogacy, and about parenting. Many women (myself included) have considered whether they may be able to be a surrogate mother for someone they loved. The reality of offering up one’s own womb, however, is seldom simple. This story addresses some of these possible realities, and focuses on the two women involved, Romily and Claire, to explore the different perspectives of the issue.
A particular highlight of Dear Thing is the letters to the unborn child (and the source of the title). To begin, you won’t know who is writing them, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear. The letters are written with such raw, emotional honesty, they’ll break your heart and make you cry with both joy and sadness. An exquisite addition to an already touching tale.
I am at an age where almost everyone I know has had, or is trying to have babies. I also happen to hear of an increasing number of couples having to explore alternate routes to having their dreamed of family. The relevance of this book, then, is immense, especially if, like me, you are around thirty and the ticking clock is growing ever louder. That Dear Thing also happens to be a book that is a well written, emotionally balanced and interesting, makes it a worthwhile read. It gripped me early on, thanks to its characters and how I felt about them, and continued to be a thoroughly satisfying read.
REVIEWER: Emma Codd
TITLE: Dear Thing
AUTHOR(S): Julie Cohen
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House