Dear Thing is the story of Claire and Ben’s desperate attempts to have their own child. At the start of the novel, Claire has just undergone her latest round of IVF and is cautiously optimistic that she will carry the baby to full term, however her hopes are cruelly dashed when she miscarries within days of her positive test. Tired of the disappointment and endless medical tests, Claire makes the decision to stop trying for a baby but it devastates her husband who turns to his best friend, Romily, for comfort.
Romily has been in love with Ben since their college days and she would do anything to put the smile back on his face, including a drunken offer to become a surrogate. Seizing the opportunity, Ben talks Claire into accepting Romily’s offer and before anyone has properly thought out the consequences, Romily is soon pregnant. However, Romily’s pregnancy stirs a lot of resentment in Claire who struggles to accept another woman is carrying her husband’s child.
Things become even more complicated when the father of Romily’s young daughter turns up out of the blue and is furious with her for not telling him about Posie’s existence. Jarvis left Romily because he could not compete with her feelings for Ben, but now that he knows he is a father, he is determined to fight for his family and tells Romily a few home truths. An emotionally fragile Romily falls in love with the baby inside her and realises with growing horror that she may not be able to give her baby up.
The various emotions explored in Dear Thing are more or less what you would expect from the subject so there are no real surprises in store. The subject of infertility is handled sensitively and you feel a lot of sympathy for Ben and Claire’s situation but you just know Romily’s offer to be a surrogate has disaster written all over it as the whole arrangement is never discussed adequately. The author does a great job of balancing out all of the characters’ emotions so we are seeing the situation from everyone’s point of view but it is inevitable that we focus more on Romily and Claire.
Nevertheless, Romily and Claire are both engaging characters despite their different approach to life and I loved how unconventional and scatterbrained Romily could be at times. Claire is portrayed as being a little too perfect for me but when you get glimpses into her upbringing, you realise why and it does make you feel a little more sympathetic.
The title of the book refers to how Romily addresses her unborn child while writing letters explaining the circumstances around the surrogacy but I have to admit to not really liking it. Regardless, the letters are a plot device to expose Romily’s true feelings for Ben and her reluctance to give up their child, however it is only a matter of time before Claire finds them. As expected, the truth leads to a lot of emotional turmoil which threatens Claire and Ben’s marriage, as well as Romily’s friendship with Ben and her renewed closeness to Jarvis.
By the time the child is born, nothing is really resolved, although the characters eventually find their way back to each other, however there is no focus on the longterm. The only way Romily can deal with giving up her child is by staying away but there is no indication as to whether this is going to be permanent or how Romily is going to feel watching her child grow up with another mother. As Romily, Jarvis and Posie set off on their grand adventure, everything just seems too neatly wrapped up.