The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre WardThe Nearness of You Published by Ballantine Books on February 14th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Women
Pages: 240

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 Youdeftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

While the cover of the book is pretty, I chose to read this book, The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward, because I had read one of Ms. Ward’s previous books, The Same Sky, back in June of 2015 (see review HERE) and I enjoyed it.

The story of The Nearness of You is deals with Suzette, who is a heart surgeon living in Houston, TX with her architect husband, Hyland. When Suzette and Hyland got married they had both agreed that they did not want to have any children. Now, fifteen years later they are nearing their 40’s, and Hyland has surprisingly changed his mind and now wants a child. Unfortunately, Suzette’s family has had a history of mental illness and she’s concerned about her genetics and passing this disease down to any children she might bear.

They agree to go with a surrogate, and they have it all figured out: Hyland would sire a child and would medically impregnate a younger woman to carry the baby to term.  That way Suzette could keep working, so to her, this arrangement is a “win/win” deal. They decide on Dorrie, who is a 21 year old, inexperienced woman who has never been married and has never had a child, but wants to use the surrogate fees to go to college. While there are some red flags in this arrangement but they move forward with Dorrie . Hyland and Dorrie begin to bond, and Suzette realizes she must get on board with the idea.

Soon Dorrie makes some decisions that will affect everyone in this new “trio” of characters. The story is told from a shifting rotation of the perspectives of Dorrie, Suzette and Hyland.  When it comes time for the baby to be born, it turn out that Dorrie has become attached to the baby that she is carrying and she flees.  She makes friends with a young destitute woman and runs off and has the baby.

Dorrie’s life is not simple either as she is struggling with an emotional battle with her very strict and religious mother. The author shares Dorrie’s life and how her life is an emotional turmoil just like Suzette’s seems to be.

The characters in The Nearness of You are complex and sometimes infuriating, but somehow are also honest and truthful. The story continues to unfold from one of hopeful promise into one dark turn after another. The story shows readers just how frail our families can be and how strong motherhood really is.  I won’t lie – this is one of those books that has you crying near the end, but in a good way.

Amanda was born in New York City in 1972. Her family moved to Rye, New York when she was four. Amanda attended Kent School in Kent, CT, where she wrote for the Kent News.

Amanda majored in English and American Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She studied fiction writing with Jim Shepard and spent her junior fall in coastal Kenya.

She worked part-time at the Williamstown Public Library. After graduation, Amanda taught at Athens College in Greece for a year, and then moved to Missoula, Montana.

Amanda studied fiction writing at the University of Montana with Bill Kittredge, Dierdre McNamer, Debra Earling, and Kevin Canty, receiving her MFA. After traveling to Egypt, she took a job at the University of Montana Mansfield Library, working in Inter Library Loan.

I received an advanced readers digital copy of this book from NetGalley and  Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine in exchange for my honest review and unbiased opinion. Thanks NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine!

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