“Even though they had all the creature comforts they could dream of, none of the women in the Happy Mothers House was happy. Asha saw it everywhere. The frustration of being away from their families, the humiliation of lying to everyone about their pregnancy, the conflict of having a baby inside them they mustn’t bond with –these were definitely not Happy Mothers.”
The best part about reading diversely, is that occasionally I come across books that teach me something new about things I think I know. I knew about the surrogacy market in India, or so I thought, until I read Amulya Malladi’s A House For Happy Mothers.
Priyasha (Priya; ethnically half-Indian, but culturally fully American) and Madhu are a Silicon Valley couple who have been trying unsuccessfully to start a family. When Priya hears from some friends about surrogacy as an option, she convinces Madhu that they must try it. The surrogate who carries their baby is Asha, an uneducated housewife from a small village in Andhra Pradesh, India. A House For Happy Mothers tells the stories of both these women who will go to great lengths for their child–Priya, for the baby she craves and Asha for the gifted child she wants to ensure an education for.
I have to mention at this point that parts of this book may be triggering for women who are struggling to start a family, or have had miscarriages.
Going beyond the surrogacy, the novel also explores other themes like poverty, mother-daughter relationship, and the relationships between these women and their husbands. Personally, I enjoyed exploring the contrast between the city bred, progressive Madhu, versus Pratap, Asha’s husband, who is still caught up in the patriarchal mindset which allows him to make the decisions for his wife.Seeing how this experience affects both these marriages was thought-provoking. Malladi’s observations on Indian societal expectations are spot on and I could relate to them completely.
In simple prose, free of embellishments, these characters and their stories become three-dimensional. Malladi doesn’t take sides or become judgmental. Alternating between Priya’s and Asha’s POV she offers glimpses of both these worlds, generating empathy for both.
A House For Happy Mothers asks all the ethical and moral questions, but offers answers to none. It only shows us these two worlds and leaves the decisions to the reader, because ultimately happiness is never what we think it is.
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.
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