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The Nearness of You: A Novel by Amanda Eyre…

The Nearness of You: A Novel

by Amanda Eyre Ward

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Amanda Eyre Ward
The Nearness of You: A Novel
Ballantine Books
Hardcover, 978-1-1018-8715-8, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 240 pgs., $27.00
February 21, 2017

“There are many ways to become a mother.”

Hyland and Suzette Kendall, an architect and a heart surgeon, respectively, have been happily married, settled into successful lives, for fifteen years. They’ve made the mutual (more or less) decision not to have children before they married, but Hyland, in some sort of mid-life crisis (“Is this it? Is that all?”), decides what’s missing from his life is a child. He wants to have a baby and, due to Suzette’s concerns about passing on a familial tendency to mental illness, suggests they use a surrogate mother. Twenty-one-year-old Dorrie, a literary sort who currently works feeding penguins at an aquarium on Galveston Island, needs the money for college, which she cannot otherwise afford. A conflicted Suzette reluctantly agrees, and her carefully controlled life, constructed to stave off uncertainty and ambiguity, threatens to buckle, along with her equilibrium.

Set in Houston (“a city with personality—loud and bright, faintly marshy and rotten around the edges”), The Nearness of You: A Novel is Austin writer Amanda Eyre Ward’s seventh novel, following 2015’s much-praised and preternaturally timely The Same Sky. Spanning seventeen years and multiple perspectives, The Nearness of You is an honest exploration of the dichotomies inherent in motherhood (“[Children] make my entire life worthwhile — they are literally my whole reason for being, and I love each one so much my heart could burst,” says Suzette’s best friend, “and yet I wish I didn’t have them almost every day. Usually around six.”), and the struggles of damaged people to overcome haunted childhoods.

Ward sets the hook in the brief prologue and follows through with a fast-paced, tightly plotted tale with many twisty turns and skillful foreshadowing—portents ignored. Though a couple of plot points seem highly improbable, the benefit of the doubt can be extended to desperate circumstances.

Ward is a multifaceted writer. The Nearness of You features gentle humor (“Hyland had ordered mimosas, a bad sign,” Suzette notes. “After fifteen years of marriage, day drinking generally led to a queasy afternoon nap followed by dry mouths, pizza for dinner, and the sense that they should be having more sex. Thirty-nine was a confusing age”); there is an urgency to the medical scenes; and she masters the small details which evoke a particular lifestyle and the disparate personalities of her complex characters.

The design team for The Nearness of You created the perfect dust jacket. Cheerful, bright, and pretty, the dustjacket evokes spring with its flower bulbs in various stages of fecund eruption, reminding us of new beginnings, ova, seeds, sprouting things, opening things, fertility—but one of the bulbs appears to be withering. Hope springs eternal.

Adroitly employing an economy of words, Ward tells a large story in this slim book. The Nearness of You is both as large, and as small, as the human heart. There’s no lifeguard at the gene pool, and as Suzette finally determines, “Mothers are forged.”

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Mar 27, 2017 |
This book was decent but it didn't really stand out for me. It was an interesting story and really delved into the character's feelings. But it seemed very unrealistic to me that people of Hyland and Suzette's stature and wealth would have been unable to track Dorrie down after she disappeared. It also seemed like a very sudden and rash decision to send Eloise to boarding school when up until that point she was a model child. I can see this being a popular book club book for the discussions is raises about what makes a mother. I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley. ( )
  susan.h.schofield | Mar 26, 2017 |
Suzette and Hyland have a happy marriage and a busy life when Hyland surprises his wife with the news that he really wants a child. Married fifteen years, children had always been off the table, as Suzette did not want to pass on the genes of her mother, a woman who gave Suzette a horrifying and unstable childhood and eventually wound up in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a new solution: what if they use a surrogate, with his sperm and a surrogate's egg? Suzette, a busy and successful heart surgeon, reluctantly agrees. Even though there are some red flags, the couple eventually chooses young Dorrie, a woman who wants to use the surrogate fees to go to college. Dorrie and Hyland bond, and Suzette realizes she must get on board with the idea. But soon Dorrie will make some decisions that will affect everyone in this new trio.

I am a bit conflicted about this novel. Ward wrote [book:The Same Sky|22716408], which is a beautiful novel and one everyone should read in this current political climate. It's hard not to compare others to that magical book, and this one did fall short. She does, however, have a way of weaving stories with her words, and while I wasn't nearly as attached to the characters in this novel, I still found myself reading the last half of the book somewhat compulsively.

The novel started out slow, but picked up about 1/4 through, with a twist in the plot. It's told from a shifting rotation of perspectives, including Suzette, Dorrie, and Hyland. There are some large shifts in time as the novel progresses, which did make it harder to attach to some of the characters. None of the plot twists are exactly surprise, as they are foreshadowed a bit in each character's description: this is more of a character-driven novel versus a shocking dramatic novel. Still, even though I tore through the last half of the novel, I just felt the book lacked something, and I felt a tad let down by a story and characters that weren't completely fully developed (the ending is a bit abrupt as well). I enjoyed the perspectives on motherhood that the novel offered, but felt there could be more. That's not to say the novel isn't worth reading; Ward is a wonderful writer, but I just felt a little perplexed and frustrated when this one ended. I had hoped for more.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 02/21/2017. ( )
  justacatandabook | Mar 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was brilliant. I loved it cover to cover and I told everyone I know to read it. It is about family, motherhood, heartbreak and hope...all mixed together! It had me buzzing through the pages and I could not guess how it was going to end. It was such a well written story that had me engaged throughout...you will want to read this book!!! ( )
  Mrsmommybooknerd | Mar 15, 2017 |
Amanda Eyre Ward’s book THE SAME SKY was my favorite book of 2015. Its themes of immigration and poverty gave the reader plenty to think about regarding their views and judgments. In her newest, THE NEARNESS OF YOU, readers try to understand a pediatric heart surgeon who didn't really want to have children and definitely doesn’t want to become pregnant. Suzette ultimately agrees to surrogacy when her husband, Hyland, nearing forty, decides that he desperately wants a child. They’ve chosen Dorrie, a young woman looking for a chance to get away from her own mother, go to college, and start a new life. Then, on the date of her sonogram appointment, Dorrie disappears leaving an apology note. Suzette must wrestle with the fact that maybe she really did want the baby, how to comfort her husband who is devastated, and stay focused to complete some of the most meticulous surgeries.

Hyland and Suzette are two professionals who have a comfortable marriage and rely on routine. Everything was fine until Hyland upset the apple cart and decided he really did want to be a father. Suzette goes along with the idea even though it gives her a lot of anxiety during the process of choosing a surrogate. The author takes each chapter and gives us the perspective of individual characters, taking us inside their minds and revealing what they are really thinking. Even though I was drawn into the story, I didn't particularly like any of the characters which made it hard to feel connected to their struggles. Some of the chapters felt like whining to me and Suzette's story seemed to focus more on the details of her surgeries rather than her relationship with her husband. Dorrie's character had potential, but I found most of her decisions to be unrealistic and frustrating.

When there is a twist and the storyline takes a new direction, I found I had a bit more interest in the story. Suzette is no longer able to control her and Hyland's monotonous life and she has to start showing some emotions. She begins to have trouble concentrating during her surgeries and life has complications that she can't seem to handle. As each of the characters is forced to make a decision, the reader realizes that one choice can impact the course of your whole life. For these three main characters and the child they bring into this world, life will never be the same.

Even though this story wasn't as emotionally heartbreaking as her previous novel, Eyre Ward still showcases her character-driven writing and talents for giving the characters their own voice. From the disgusting motel that Dorrie lives in. to the stark operating room that Suzette thrives in, readers can visualize the scenes and feel part of the story. But, there may be a disappointment in the predictability of the plot. While nearing the end of the book, I realized that it was going to have to be a rushed ending to fit it all in and it was. On its own, it's a fine story, but when comparing it to the author's others, it falls a little flat.

Favorite Quotes:

"You meet kind people, and you return their kindness.
That's what friendship is. You take care of someone and they become yours."

"You never know when you will be forced
to make the decision that will define your days." ( )
  Staciele | Mar 8, 2017 |
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The girl in the bed was close to death.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 110188715X, Hardcover)

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 selection, 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 You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

Advance praise for The Nearness of You

The Nearness of You includes everything I love about Amanda Eyre Ward’s books: edgy eloquence, ingenious plotting, and relationships that are never, not for a single paragraph, simple or predictable. Through Suzette, Dorrie, Hyland, and Jayne, Ward reveals parenthood as an enterprise that is as wrenching as it is beautiful. You will love these characters and this book.”—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of The Precious One

“Deftly paced and enthralling, Amanda Eyre Ward’s The Nearness of You takes on the complexity of what it means to be a mother, and provides insights both heartening and harrowing.”—Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

The Nearness of You is not just an arresting meditation on motherhood, but also an exploration of how we can seize the lives we’ve been given and transform them into the lives we want to live. Like all of Ward’s novels, this book’s intrigue and charm demand that it be indulged in a single sitting.”—Vendela Vida, author of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 16 Nov 2016 18:47:13 -0500)

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