Read from my local library
Eight years ago, Nova agreed to do a selfless thing – to have a baby for her best friend since childhool Mal and his wife Stephanie. They could not have children and when Stephanie was desperate to become a mother, they turned to the one person that they thought would help them.
For a while, everything went well. But then Stephanie found a text from Mal to Nova saying ‘Goodnight, beautiful’ and suddenly she was filled with a terrible fear. She decided that she couldn’t go through with it, that she couldn’t raise this child that was Mal and Nova’s and they walked away, leaving Nora pregnant, scared and alone.
Now Leo is 8 and he is ill in hospital, in a coma. Nova spends every waking moment by his bedside, desperately waiting for him to open his eyes. Stephanie is still trying to save her marriage, torn even further apart by the guilt and the aftermath of their decision to walk away and for Mal to cut ties with Nova.
Now that it seems the worst is to come for Leo, Nova decides that Mal has a right to know and to see his son if he so chooses. This may be the only chance he ever gets and Nova is done living her life as if Mal doesn’t exist anymore. They were best friends and surely they can salvage something from this horrible situation.
Goodnight, Beautiful is another book that tackles surrogacy albeit in a very different way. Nova and Mal grew up, bound together by their parents friendship and support. The two of them were almost inseparable up until their college years until a mistimed interaction that went beyond friendship led to a bit of a cooling off. Mal met and married Stephanie and Nova drifted in and out of relationships with Keith, a policeman 10 years older than she. When Mal and Stephanie asked Nova to be a surrogate, her first instinct was to say no. But then she realised she could give them this gift and changed her mind only to end up alone when the two of them walked away from her and the unborn child. Nova had attempted to distance herself from the baby growing inside of her, knowing that he was never going to be hers, that she would be handing him over. But then with no warning…. everything changed.
While I felt for Nova (what an utterly horrible, horrible thing for someone to do to her) she came across as so utterly spineless throughout almost all of this book that it was infuriating. Mal is one of the most selfish, unlikable characters I’ve had the displeasure of reading about in a long time and Nova pretty much just lets him walk right over the top of her. She was in love with him when he baulked and cooled things off between them and she was in love with him still when he married Stephanie and when he asked her to be a surrogate. Mal realising that he’d made a mistake probably couldn’t have come at a worse time but he’d sworn to a fragile Stephanie that he would never leave her, haunted by his mother’s demons. I spent most of the time wanting to slap Mal and Stephanie for their hideous manipulation and selfishness and wanting to shake Nova, to spur her into some form of action. She’s so pathetically passive about what they do to her, she doesn’t even tell her family how she came to be pregnant and what happened. Instead she allows them to think that she had some sort of affair/one night stand with Mal (when it becomes obvious after Leo is born who his father is). Nova shoulders the blame (although I do have to say she is not judged by her family or even Mal’s own mother) of the resulting Leo and even when the truth comes out when Leo is in hospital and Nova feels Mal should know/see him, no one holds Mal accountable for his weak and spineless actions. They way in which they decide on a whim to create a child, involving Nova in the process and then the way in which they walk away from it was loathesome. No matter how tortured they were on the inside, both Mal and Stephanie were such terrible people that I couldn’t get behind Mal and Nova’s fabulous friendship at all. I also found Nova and Mal’s actions late in the novel reprehensible. I know some people do strange things in the grip of grief and what have you but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Keith. Poor bastard.
I’ve heard some really fabulous things about this author, this novel and also The Ice Cream Girls so I do have to say that this was a bit of a disappointment to me. I think the core story was pretty fantastic but my inability to connect with the two main characters, especially Mal meant that I didn’t really feel the deep emotion that some others did. I do like that it took quite a different look at surrogacy – you’d expect the surrogate to perhaps back out but I feel that the parents desperate for the baby changing their mind was quite an interesting twist. I understand why/how it happened, but that doesn’t change the fact that Nova was treated in a way that went above and beyond awful and she just let it happen. I can’t really get with that!
Book #109 of 2013