Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: The Paternity Test

by: Michael Lowenthal

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother?

Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.

As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American carpenter. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?

In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”

This book is full of flavor. You feel their excitement at having a baby, but as you get in deeper and understand the relationship these men have...well, it's less black and white. I thought it was a brilliant portrayal about how our motivations aren't always so simple.

In the opening of the description it talks about the cliche, "having a baby to save the marriage." And that is what all their friends think is going on. And really, it kind of is. For one of them. For the other, it's about giving his parents a grandchild and continuing the family line. Are either of those perfect reasons for having a baby?

What motivates straight couples to breed? I see lots of accidents (Ivan is one of them - lol), just because it's the normal next step, and even today there are lots of save-the-relationship babies. Just because they are a gay couple doesn't mean they don't face the same hardships in deciding to have children.

This story does a great job showing the grey areas in relationships. And I wonder how much of it is true, in the gay community there is a LOT of casual sex still going on. That is what made Pat and Stu so rocky. For Stu's credit, he does make an effort to stay true to Pat once it comes out that Pat simply can't take that lifestyle anymore. It's a huge trust issue that comes back over and over again.

This is a very realistic and heart-wrenching story that will surprise you in the end.

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