January 17, 2013

Reading The Paternity Test...

I don't remember who recommended The Paternity Test to me, but whoever did I owe them a thank-you. What I thought was a cute light read about an upscale urban gay couple trying to have a baby a la The New Normal --- but, uh, hopefully funnier --- turned out to be much more substantial and involving.

A thirty-something gay couple, writer Pat and airline pilot Stuart, leave busy New York  for quiet Cape Cod, running away from Stuart's serial infidelity and towards baby making.

Looking for a surrogate, and after interviewing a bunch of unsuitable candidates, they discover Debora, a charming Brazilian woman married to an American, Danny. Debora and Danny have a young daughter, and of course their own drama behind the scenes.

The Paternity Test is about the comical and serious adventures of Debora’s many insemination attempts. It also touches on gay marriage, monogamy and infidelity, homophobia, Jewish identity, urban vs suburban living, and even the Holocaust and Jewish continuity.  
Lowenthal’s snappy dialogue moves the story along and reveals complexities among the characters, and Pat’s first-person narration provides insight into the often conflicting motivations behind parenthood. While I cannot relate at these people wanting babies at all, I found it fascinating to peek into the mind of a gay man wanting a baby.
Pat's misgivings and insecurities cause a host of  complications and Pat’s relationship with Stu is  put to the test. The other story lines about Debora and Danny's marriage, and Stu’s sister’s struggles with fertility, are parallels to the main plot, where issues of family, identity, desire, and responsibility collide.
Michael Lowenthal's characters are complex, flawed, entertainingly ignorant of their flaws, and real, complicated people.  Something I really like about The Paternity Test was that I did not figure out where it was going.  There are some big twists, which isn't exactly what you expect when reading a character-driven novel.  
There is more to The Paternity Test than meets they eye (hey, there is a pun in there somewhere)... this is a poignant tale of a relationship going through challenging times, mixed in with  good laughs and unexpected plot twists. Read it.