“A House for Happy Mothers” (Lake Union Publishing), by Amulya Malladi

After failing to have children on their own, Priya and Madhu, a successful Silicon Valley couple, have ventured into the surrogate world.

Across the globe, in a small hut in South India, Asha longs to send her son to a better school. At the coaxing of her husband, the young mom hesitantly agrees to enter the Happy Mothers House, a home for women renting their wombs to the wealthy. Thus begins the tangled relationship between Priya and Asha in “A House for Happy Mothers.”

As Priya bickers with her husband, looks down upon their friends and incessantly worries about everything from the economy to whether or not the surrogate mother will catch ringworm, Asha’s belly grows with the California couple’s baby.

Alternating chapters give us pictures of both women’s lives. Asha navigates a marriage arranged for her years ago and desperately hopes her husband will not squander the money she’ll receive for giving birth to another woman’s child. Meanwhile, Priya fights with her mother, listens as her peers complain about parenthood and longs for her child growing in the womb of a woman on the other side of the world.

Interspersed throughout the novel are snippets from a surrogate message board that Priya frequents. This serves as yet another outlet for her to voice her never-ending fears. Though it’s obvious Priya loves her child, even this redeeming quality is overshadowed by her brooding tendencies. Asha, on the other hand, passes her days watching television and listening to the sometimes wise, sometimes foolish advice of all the other surrogates with whom she lives.

Looming conflicts detailed early in the book are given abrupt outcomes toward the end, giving the impression of a hastily constructed conclusion. However, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the surrogate industry and casts light on the emotional toil those involved face.

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