Date read: 28th February 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: July 1st 2014
Length: 352 pages
Source: I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Mom, dad(s), and baby make-four?
Laurie and Alan are thrilled to find out that they’ll finally be having a baby, until they discover the unthinkable: the doctor has impregnated Laurie with the wrong man’s sperm. Alan is reeling, torn about the new child that’s not his and suddenly unsure about any of his commitments. His shock is almost as great as that of Jack, a college junior who suddenly finds out he’s a father, and whose identity is discovered as he is juggling finals, his fraternity, a fund shortage, and two girlfriends. Frank, funny, and forthright, “Expecting” is the fascinating story of three people bound together by a fateful mistake, and a thoughtful exploration of what it really means to be a parent.
Every week or so I have a browse through the titles on Netgalley, curse the fact that I’ll be denied quite a few due to living in the UK, and request titles that spark some interest in my tired brain. As soon as I saw that Ann Hamilton had written for Grey’s Anatomy, I clicked on ‘Request’ for Expecting, and read the description afterwards.
I used to devour chick-lit and wasn’t particularly choosy about what I read… anything that was on offer in the supermarket usually found its way into my cart. Then in 2008 I discovered Twilight, soon afterwards I made my way to the world of the book blog and from there on I made my way to the Young Adult shelves of the bookshop a heck of a lot more often than I used to.
Which is a story for another day… The point I’m making (badly) is that it’s been a while since I’ve read a women’s fiction novel by a ‘new to me’ author. So I was excited to try something new and see where I ended up. Similarly to the main characters in this novel, I’m not entirely sure where I’ve ended up.
The premise of the book is that Laurie and Alan are a blissfully happy couple who decide after a couple of years of marriage to try for a baby, but suffer fertility problems which can’t be explained, even after being poked, prodded, and forced to look at pictures of Jessica Alba. They opt to undergo in uterine fertilisation… Except there’s a vengeful ex-employee at the doctor’s office, who’s switched sperm samples. And although Laurie’s pregnant, it’s not Alan’s baby, but a 22-year old fifth year senior at UCLA who has no idea of the insanity which will ensue…
The book is written from multiple viewpoints, switching periodically between Laurie, Alan and Jack, which is a really effective way of showing how the mistake affects all three of them. If the story had been written in the same viewpoint throughout I think sympathy would have been lost, especially for Alan – although it’s completely understandable that he goes into a tailspin upon learning he hasn’t fathered his wife’s child, being able to hear it in his voice brings an immediacy to his panic and his decisions thereafter. Also learning what Jack thought of the whole situation makes him more than a UCLA frat boy but someone collapsing under the pressure of living up to his parents high expectations (whether real or imagined).
I think I’d get on well with all the characters in the book – and I desperately want Laurie’s job, helping her friend Grace find undiscovered experiences in the Valley area of California and writing about it for a publication, even though I’d rather not go hiking (my idea of exercise is walking from the kettle to the sofa and back). I loved Alan’s bad jokes, and could just tell that Jack was going to turn into a spectacular young man no matter what he ended up choosing as a profession, once he settled down with one girl and didn’t go for girls who stalk him and are named after French provinces, that is.
However, a couple of things about the book jarred with me – although I’m very glad that Hamilton chose not to make this a litigious novel (although I enjoy Jodi Picoult’s style of writing about this sort of situation, it was good to focus on the emotional and practical side) the threat of legal action was made swiftly once Laurie and Alan found out about the mistake, but unless I missed something, it wasn’t mentioned again. I find it difficult to believe that they wouldn’t have taken any action at all against Dr Julian – even if it was only with the aim of getting an official apology?
Also, although the plot points were wrapped up pretty well towards the end, I would have liked to read about how Laurie, Alan and Jack made their way through the first few years of parenthood. It would have been nice to see Laurie’s friend Grace’s reaction to the paternity scandal as well, rather than just hearing a conversation in the aftermath. But on the whole, I really enjoyed this book and will look forward to reading others by Ann Hamilton in the future!