“The Paternity Test” by Michael Lowenthal; c.2012, University of Wisconsin Press; $26.95 U.S. and Canada; 288 pages
Review by Terri Schlichenmeyer
A lot of the things you’ve done in your life, you’ve done just for kicks.
You’ve taken dares to alleviate boredom. Taken risks on what-the-heck whims. You’ve done things legal and illegal for no other reason than that they were there, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. You did them just for kicks.
But when it comes to having a family, the only kicks you want are the ones from your unborn child. In the new book “The Paternity Test” by Michael Lowenthal, getting to that point, for two prospective fathers, almost gives their relationship the boot.
Patrick Faunce met Stuart Nadler at a charity event.
Stu, an airline pilot, once had boyfriends near every major airport. It was something that Pat learned not to question so he just stayed at home, working and worrying, never knowing if he was good enough, always overthinking. Pat been in love with both boys and girls before, but he was afraid of losing Stu.
So when the Faunce family vacation house on Cape Cod fell into Pat’s ownership, he convinced Stu to move. It was a perfect place for a start-over, which made things better but still bumpy.
This time, though, it wasn’t all Stu’s fault: Patrick realized that he wanted a baby.
His childhood had been marked by a largely-absent father and hints of infidelity from his mother, and Pat wanted a family like the one he never had. He knew about surrogacy and he researched more, which is how he and Stu ended up meeting Debora and Danny Neuman.
Debora was sassy and beautiful. Danny was reticent but friendly, if not a little nervous. They had an adorable 4-year-old daughter, they said their family was complete, and they only wanted to be able to help someone else have a family.
Agreements were made. Papers were signed.
But when month after month passed with no pregnancy, Patrick and Stu began to unravel. Debora and Danny’s relationship began to fray, too, so Debora started to rely on Pat’s friendship. Could a baby – maybe? – put everything back the way it was before?
You have to love a story that makes you a little scared to move on to the next chapter because you’ve come to care about the characters so much. Fortunately, that’s what will happen when you read “The Paternity Test.”
Told from the perspective of one almost-parent, this novel is rich with angst and eagerness, laced with past-inflicted pain, and yet… still hopeful. Author Michael Lowenthal perfectly depicts the emotions of trying to start a family. Beginning slow in his storytelling, he just as slowly builds to an almost-see-it-coming, tense-but-can’t-look-away ending that will leave readers feeling strangely, breathlessly pensive.
You can expect a lot from this story of expectations met and dashed, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed because it’s one of those novels that will stick in your mind. If you miss “The Paternity Test,” in fact, you’ll kick yourself.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri lives in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,500 books.