The theme of this book is emotional, ethical and even practical - Surrogacy.
When I received this book for review I was happy yet apprehensive. I was of course honoured to be considered as a reviewer but at the same time I was a little anxious as I wasn’t sure how deeply I would be affected by the theme. Having worked within the fertility industry for a few years now, terms like surrogacy take on a strictly professional guise and this book by delving into the story of a mother and her surrogate sharply reminded me of the emotional turmoil that the process inevitably creates.
A House for Happy Mothers is the story of Priya an NRI living in California who has a successful career, secure home and loving husband but is unable to become a mother “naturally” and Asha a poor woman living with her husband and two children in a small Indian village who is fertile, yes but for whom material comforts are a far off cry. Both their stories run parallel to each other and the manner in which the “voice” of the narrative changes is not at all abrupt. Their stories come together through a surrogacy home in India run by Dr Swati - ‘Happy Mothers House’.
The interactions that ensue among the characters from conception, first, second and third trimester and finally birth are emotionally exhilarating. As usual, Malladi’s characters come out strong and effective. Priya’s husband, parents and in laws, Asha’s family, the staff and other surrogates at the surrogacy home and even Priya’s mother’s friends! An interesting feature that runs through the course of Priya’s story is that of an online support forum which I felt was very clever given the sensitive nature of the whole process. This is in stark contrast to the comments suffered by Priya at social gatherings e.g. [a friend to Priya] “I mean, you don’t have to go through labour and delivery. Athar (friend’s husband), we can have a cricket team if we can have the rest of the babies that way”.
When one deals with such a sensitive topic, it is so easy to get sucked into focusing on only one aspect of the process e.g. the emotion. However, Malladi does well in ensuring that whilst the emotions flow as a steady undercurrent, the other aspects of surrogacy including practicality, financial stability and most importantly co-dependence are not neglected.
I just realised that my previous post also dealt with Malladi’s work! I have certainly come to enjoy her books and will definitely be looking out for more. Her next book is set to release in 2017. Until then, I am happy that I have her previous books to catch up with!