I was intrigued by this book from the very beginning, the blurb on the back of the hardcover copy is a letter written to `Thing', and it gave me enough information to have an idea that the book will be about family, and perhaps a baby, but is mysterious enough that it sparked my curiosity and made me keen to start reading.
Ben and Claire have a wonderful life, they have a nice house, stable jobs, and they are very much in love. The only problem is that they can't have a baby. After endless hospital trips and attempts at IVF, Claire has given up on ever having a much longed for child of her own. Until one night, Ben's best friend Romily offers to have a baby for them. Romily is a single mother to her daughter Posie, living a chaotic life as she tries to juggle work and looking after her daughter. With no desire for another baby herself, but having working eggs and wanting to help her friends out, Romily says she will have a baby for them. However, being pregnant stirs up many emotions and feelings in Romily that she'd rather keep hidden. And is being a surrogate as straightforward as it seems?
This is the first novel about surrogacy that I've read, and I imagine surrogacy is a very difficult topic to write about. However, Julie Cohen really excels in her portrayal of surrogacy, not only from the prospective parents point of view, but for the surrogate who is carrying the baby too. In Dear Thing we get to see things from different points of view: there is Ben who desperately wants a child and is willing to take any option as he is focused on the end result. We also see Claire's point of view, she has put herself through many medial appointments and read so many books on babies and pregnancy, but after accepting the surrogacy option, she realises she has no control over any of it, including how another woman looks after herself and the growing baby inside her. Then there is Romily, who is suddenly struck with the idea of being a surrogate, but when the pregnancy gets going, she finds her hormones may be overwhelming her, and emotions and feelings may be developing no matter how she tries to stop them.
Julie Cohen really enlightens her readers to many aspects of surrogacy, and the fact that although surrogacy is a wonderful and very kind thing for someone to do, there are also many emotions, scenarios and consequences that need to be taken into consideration before embarking on such a choice. And it's not just feelings that need to be thought of, but the effect that a surrogacy will have on all parties involved, including the parents-to-be, the surrogate mother, and any other existing children on both sides. Although at the age of 23, I don't yet have children, the subject of surrogacy definitely had me thinking - If I couldn't have children, would I consider surrogacy? Would I be able to go through it? Would it be the right option for me? I'm certain this book will actually start discussions and encourage talking about surrogacy, and that can only be a good thing as I don't think surrogacy is a subject that is touched upon frequently.
The characters were very well written, they each managed to draw many emotions out of me, including sadness, empathy, frustration, and happiness. Romily was my favourite, I warmed to her straight away as she was a woman who was trying to make the best of all she had and get by in the world, whilst trying to juggle all aspects of her life. I LOVED Posie, I loved her interest in the world around her, the way she was so logical about events, her affection for Ben and Claire, and her questions that had me thinking too! With Ben and Claire, I went back and forth between liking them and being extremely frustrated with them, although in a positive way, this frustration helped me to remember that this wasn't a straightforward situation and encouraged me to think deeper about the many layers involved in following through with this particular choice. I did feel for Claire after everything she had been through, and there were many very well-written scenes where more of Claire's feelings about her personal struggles came out. These scenes broke my heart and were very emotional, and at times I had a lump in my throat and a few tears in my eyes. I liked that throughout the story, even though there are times where the characters can be frustrating, we as readers are given the opportunity to individually feel for these characters, to relate to them, and to understand them.
One of my favourite parts were the heartfelt and emotional letters to `Thing', they touched me and drew me further into story, I loved how personal, and honest these letters were, and it felt as though I was sharing something important with the character.
Dear Thing is an emotional read, as it covers guilt, love, hidden feelings, jealously, sorrow and hope among many others. It is a complex novel with many layers to unravel and devour, and it is a truly gripping read that will have you turning the pages desperate to know what is going to happen next. I finished Dear Thing yesterday morning, and I'm still thinking about it now, this is a truly a story that will stay with you long after you have finished the last sentence. This an excellent novel from Julie Cohen and I would thoroughly recommend it.