I love reading novels where circumstances lump together people from entirely different backgrounds. Pardon the shoddy analogy, but it’s almost like putting together random fruits and seeing if they work as a smoothie (relevant: I’m hungry).
That’s what readers get in A House for Happy Mothers, by Amulya Malladi. After multiple heartbreaking miscarriages, Priya and Madhu decide it’s time to try something different. A relatively well-off couple, they decide to find a surrogate mother in India. Not only will this be a less expensive solution after their failed in-vitro fertilization, but they’ll be able to have an Indian woman carry their Indian child, and they’ll also financially help a less affluent family in the process.
It’s unclear how much of this is honest reasoning and how much is rationalization. The pendulum swings between the two throughout the book, allowing the reader to fully grasp the situation’s complexity.
On the other side of the world, Asha also wonders if she’s being exploited, or if she’s doing the honorable thing by earning money for her son’s schooling. Is this just her lot in life as an uneducated woman from a small village, or is she no better than prostitutes who sell their bodies in short-term transactions?
The rest of the book bounces between Priya, the hopeful mother to be, and Asha, the vessel for a child she increasingly resents. The book is about the lengths to which certain women will go for a child, but there’s much more to talk about. It’s about relationships, whether between mother and daughter, husband and wife, or surrogate and mother to be. Unexpectedly, what could have been a preachy book about poverty and exploitation became something more nuanced. As a result, A House for Happy Mothers is not dramatic, it’s just… honest. Author Amulya Malladi is just as honest about the pain of being barren as she is about the pain of carrying a child you know you cannot grow to love.
I enjoyed this book and honestly think it begs to be read for a vibrant book club. I can only imagine the discussions that could come from a book like this, as people decide whether or not the surrogates were being exploited. There are other questions that could be posed as well, perhaps about the sacrifices of marriage and motherhood, or the adoption vs. surrogacy.
Disclaimer: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. But the cover’s so nice, my boyfriend probably would have had to hold me back had I seen it at the bookstore.
Read any books lately that forced you to look at issues in a new light? Put them in the comments, because I could use some enlightening reading.