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The Paternity Test

by Christopher Verleger
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Monday Sep 24, 2012
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A gay couple from New York City believes fatherhood will repair their topsy-turvy relationship in author Michael Lowenthal’s engaging fourth novel, "The Paternity Test."

Pat Faunce, editor of children’s textbooks, and Stu Nadler, an airline pilot, have shared ten tumultuous years together. All the while, the two have had an arrangement that allows them to see other men, an aspect of their partnership that Pat appreciated when they were younger but now worries may lead to their demise.

Having recently relocated from New York City to Cape Cod, Stu and Pat have decidedly reinvented themselves not only as a monogamous couple, but also as aspiring parents, desperately seeking a surrogate. The novel begins when the two men are en route to meet Debora, a seemingly too-good-to-be-true woman from Brazil who might possibly help make their dream of fatherhood come true.

From the start, Lowenthal’s exemplary prose paints a vivid picture of the life Pat and Stu have had thus far, because underneath the playful banter and affection is a decade loaded with uneasy history. The couple’s dialogue has an ominous undertone that early on calls into question whether they are ready to be fathers and if they’re pursuing parenthood for the wrong reasons.

The willing and able Debora, who already has a daughter, Paula, as well as a supportive husband, Danny, turns out to be the perfect candidate, at least initially. Despite several failed attempts, the ensuing complications are, oddly enough, in no way related to biology.

Stu’s sister, Rina, who hasn’t had any success getting pregnant, announces that she and her husband, Richard, have decided to adopt a child. Pat, in turn, reveals their own paternity plans, against Stu’s wishes and much to the chagrin of his family. Furthermore, Pat and Debora grow close--arguably too close--and he learns her marriage and reasons for wanting to have another child may not be so cut and dried or picture-perfect.

The novel and its author present a compelling, painstakingly honest portrait of a gay couple’s logistical and emotional journey to become parents. The arduous surrogacy process inadvertently forces these men to reexamine their relationship and helps to determine whether they’re even capable of starting a family.

Ultimately, Stu and Pat are both equally at fault when things don’t exactly go according to plan, which makes their story all the more relatable and believable, and the novel a quintessential page turner. The reader knows that having a baby certainly won’t solve all their problems, yet you still can’t help but want the best for them.

The Paternity Test
Michael Lowenthal
University of Wisconsin Press
$26.95

by Michael Lowenthal

Chris Verleger is an avid reader, aspiring novelist and self-professed theater geek from Providence. Email cwverleger1971@yahoo.com.

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