The Object of Your Affections
Falguni Kothari’s The Object of Your Affections isn’t an easy book to define. It’s the story of best friends who embark on a journey that will change their lives in unimaginable ways. It’s a quiet story that focuses on the inner development of its characters rather than on the high drama that fills the pages of many of today’s novels, and it’s a book that left me with mixed emotions.
Paris and Naira have been friends ever since they met in college ten years before the story opens. They seem to have drifted apart in recent years, a fact that saddens them both. Unfortunately, life seems to have gotten in the way of their friendship, and neither woman is sure how to get back to the way things used to be between them.
Paris is a high-powered assistant district attorney living in New York with her husband Neal. Their marriage seems to be right out of a storybook, and Paris sometimes finds herself wondering how she managed to be so lucky. Not only is Neal passionate and kind, he’s a well-known jewelry designer and part of an internationally renowned family retail business. Neal has wanted kids for years, but Paris has always been up front about her disdain for anything relating to children, so Neal seems to have put his dreams of fatherhood on the back burner for the time being – and this is the one fly in the ointment of their relationship.
Naira is a widow living in Mumbai. Her husband was accused of mishandling a large amount of money shortly before his death, and both the loss of her husband and the cloud of suspicion that hangs over her head are making life pretty near impossible for her. She’s not even thirty yet, but everyone around her is acting as if her life has come to a screeching halt, and Naira isn’t sure how she feels about that. She was raised to be subservient to her husband, but now that he’s gone, should she put her life in the hands of another man, or would it be better to strike out on her own?
Eventually, Naira decides she needs to make a fresh start far away from the rigid expectations of her ultra-conservative family. To this end, she packs her bags and flies to New York City where she hopes to start her own small clothing shop. Of course, she’s glad that her move will allow her to mend fences with Paris, and she anticipates living the next several years with Paris and Neal nearby. Things definitely seem to be looking up.
Paris has recently begun to feel quite guilty for forcing Neal to give up his dream of fathering children. She still can’t picture herself as a mother, but she knows it’s not fair for her to expect Neal to give up something that’s so obviously important to him. So she decides to hire a surrogate, thinking this the perfect solution to their problem. Neal isn’t nearly as thrilled about the idea, but he knows this is the only way he’ll have kids, so he reluctantly gives in and the couple begins searching for the perfect woman to carry their child.
It’s not long after this that Naira arrives in New York and Paris is pretty sure all her problems have been solved. Naira would be the perfect surrogate. She’s young, healthy, and extremely reliable. Plus, she is someone Paris knows she can get along with, and perhaps even convince to take an active role in raising the child. Naira is beyond surprised when Paris lays the plan out for her, but she eventually comes around to her friend’s way of thinking.
What follows is a funny and intimate look at two friends as they attempt to redefine things like motherhood and family. I’ll admit I had some trouble relating to the story since I have no desire to have children, but even so, I found myself oddly compelled to see how things would turn out for these unconventional characters.
Paris was really hard for me to like. She loves her husband, but everything in their marriage has to be done on her terms. She puts a lot of emphasis on compromise, but she’s never the one who has to give up anything important. She also has a ton of insecurities, something I usually like in my heroines since it often makes them easier for me to identify with, but in Paris’ case, they served only to make her even more unlikeable. It’s hard to explain what I mean without spoiling things, but I’m pretty sure readers will understand before they get very far along in the story.
Naira was a far easier character to warm up to. She seems kind of meek in the beginning, but it didn’t take me long to see that she’s actually a very strong woman. She doesn’t hesitate to fly in the face of social convention when she knows it’s the best thing for her, and she doesn’t sit around constantly thinking how absolutely stellar she is the way that Paris does. There were a few times I really wanted Neal to leave Paris for Naira. She seemed to appreciate him in a way Paris could only pay lip service to, and I honestly thought the two of them would have made a far better couple.
If motherhood doesn’t interest you, The Object of Your Affections might not be your kind of book. I found some of the descriptions of sonograms and morning sickness a little tedious at times, but in spite of that, it turned out to be enjoyable enough, even if it’s not the sort of thing I’m usually drawn to.