In a novel exploring the fragile ties of friendship, love, and family, Brown (Come Away With Me, 2015) takes on the loaded subject of surrogate motherhood between a pair of best friends—and the unforeseen turmoil and tragedy that result.
Hannah and Kate have been linked at the hip since fifth grade, and they possess the sort of easy intimacy—a constant daily connection—that some only find with family members or spouses and some find, well, never at all. Both in their mid-30s and happily ensconced in Bay Area homes with sweet, doting husbands, just one thing mars their otherwise idyllic-seeming friendship: the fact that Hannah and her husband, Ben, have been frantically trying to conceive for years, while Kate and husband David are already parents to two young daughters. Hannah wants to become a mother so badly, the subject of other people's babies can transform her into a seething pit of envy and pain. After a fresh round of fertility tests in which her doctor essentially tells Hannah to start looking into other options, she’s understandably shattered. She has an off-putting aversion to adoption, which Brown doesn't really bother to explain, so Hannah immediately begins mulling over hiring a surrogate. When Kate steps up to the plate instead, offering not only to carry the baby, but her own eggs as well, Hannah and Ben find little reason to say no, and they excitedly begin the process. Kate quickly gets pregnant using Ben's sperm (it's a boy!), and everything moves along promisingly—until a series of dramatic health crises befall Kate, threatening to derail, well, everything. Lawyers become involved, as do protesters, and the four friends’ bonds are tested to a degree no one would wish on a distant enemy.
A compelling premise with a plot that intensifies satisfyingly in the second half, this book is a good bet for readers who don’t shy away from difficult moral questions swirling around a sometimes-sappy center.