Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari

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Two best friends rewrite the rules of friendship, love and family…and change everything they thought they knew about motherhood

Paris Kahn Fraser has it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over having a family of his own. Neal’s dream of fatherhood might have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy life…until Paris’s best friend comes to town.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. After all, there isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other.

But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families and even their own biology as these two best friends embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.

Wry, daring and utterly absorbing, The Object of Your Affections is an unforgettable story about two women challenging the norms…and the magic that happens when we choose to forge our own path.

Source: audiobook borrowed from Hoopla

Paris and Naira couldn't be more different from each other and I spent almost the entire time wondering how these two could be friends. Paris is a dominant character with an iron will and one track mind that plows through anything in her way, and that can include people sometimes. She's so hardcore and ambitious you'd think she has a stone heart. The only person who can turn her to mush (sort of) is her husband, Neal. Neal is the only other thing in her life that consumes her besides her career. She's so in love with him that sometimes it feels like it borders on obsession. Naira, on the other hand is softer, more approachable. She's that person who'll put others ahead of herself and never want to impose on anyone even if she's in need of help. Floundering after her husband's death, she returns to New York hoping to reunite with Paris and have some of Paris' no-nonsense attitude give her a kick in the behind to straighten up her life. When Paris broaches the idea of being a surrogate for her and Neal ... suffice it to say it's not what Naira had expected.

The book incites so many feelings. I had the most confusing time with Paris. One moment I admired her strength and the next I'd get so annoyed about her ambivalence towards motherhood. She doesn't want to be a mother, or carry a child but wants to give this to Neal knowing he truly wants children. She sees it as a compromise yet she complained the entire time or would be jealous that it was taking attention away from her. So is it a compromise if it's done begrudgingly? That's what I kept asking myself. Yet as much as she irritated me in those moments I did find her backstory interesting which goes a long way in explaining what made Paris who she is today. And she is protective of the people she loves, including Naira whose backstory is equally interesting but also tragic. She went through her own tumultuous ordeal during the time that she and Paris were estranged. Her husband died amidst speculation about his business dealings and finances and now Naira carries that burden. I was desperate for her to confide in Paris sooner rather than later but though Naira is quieter and more introspective, she refuses to have other people fix her problems. Their friendship is fascinating and confounding. Throw in Neal and it's seriously nuts. He's such a saint about things that half the time I couldn't believe he was real. 

I long to have a serious discussion with someone about this novel, to dissect everything and honestly, laugh and cry over how much it has affected me. Paris is truly one of the most complex characters I've come across and I think that's one of the reasons why this novel is a hit with me because she challenged my views. And the Paris-Neal-Naira triangle tested my concept of a family - what makes a family, how people become a family, how they create a family that works for them. 

By the way, I also have to give a huge shout out to the narrators. Between the excellent writing and the narrating there are certain scenes that are so vivid in my mind, one of them towards the end of the story: a lively and penultimate scene that comes to a screeching halt. I froze in that moment along with the characters and that scene has stuck ever since. Kothari has delivered a profoundly authentic story here. This trio defies tradition and that's what makes The Object of Your Affections a compelling, addictive read. 

~ Bel

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