Gina Frangello's new novel, Every Kind of Wanting, published last month by Counterpoint, is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
It is a novel that explores the idea of what makes a family a family through the lens of gestational surrogacy. While all families are strange, I guarantee you haven't met one like this.
Chad and Miguel are a same-sex couple who want to have a baby. Chad comes from a supremely wealthy Chicago family. Miguel was born in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to the United States under mysterious circumstances.
Chad's sister Gretchen donates an egg. Miguel provides the sperm. All they need is someone who will carry the baby to term.
Enter Miguel's sister Lina. Chad and Miguel go to see an edgy play that Lina is performing in. At the play Miguel runs into Emily, an old high school friend who used to have a huge crush on Miguel. Emily is happily married to Nick, the director of the play, who is secretly in love with Lina. Emily volunteers to carry Chad and Miguel's baby. Problem solved?
As the great philosopher of our time would say: "Au contraire, mon frère."
The efforts to bring this "community baby" into the world get very, very complicated and provide Every Kind of Wanting with enough drama, heartbreak and suspense to fill a mini-series.
The story is told through clusters of chapters with alternating points of view. Frangello starts with three but leaves one behind to introduce another that opens up the narrative in fascinating new ways. One character doesn't get her voice until midway through the book. Another weighs in at the end. It's intimate without being overwhelming and allows the reader to see what makes these men and women tick.
Desire functions as a Trojan horse in Every Kind of Wanting: when the characters submit to their desire, they unwittingly invite entanglements, unexpected consequences and outright catastrophes into their lives. Here's the surrogate reflecting on her decision to carry someone else's baby: "[She] chose unwisely. She chose with her pussy; she chose with her thrashing desire to not be her mother."
Sometimes an author introduces action, drama or suspense in a way that feels manufactured. That's never the case here. Every Kind of Wanting is a powderkeg disguised as a domestic drama that detonates every one of out expectations of what it means to be a family.