Michael Lowenthal

  • 2012
  • Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press
  • ISBN 978-0-299-29000-9 & 978-0-299-29004-7
  • Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, iBook
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The Paternity Test

  • An Indie Next selection
  • A Lambda Literary Award finalist

Pat Faunce yearns for more than his carefree New York life as a writer and his open relationship with Stu, an airline pilot. Above all, he wants to be a father. He persuades a reluctant Stu to move to Cape Cod, where they enlist Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, as a surrogate mother. But the men’s attempt to have a child creates new emotional complications—with Stu's parents and sister, with Debora and her husband, and with each other. Building to a harrowing conclusion, this fearless, darkly funny novel asks whether making a new family is worth risking the one you have.

Praise for The Paternity Test

"A beautifully told story that brings myriad social issues to the forefront, and also manages to be a literary page-turner." Jewish Daily Forward

"The Paternity Test is at once heartbreaking and groundbreaking. It's a brave, warts-and-all examination of a troubled gay couple ... who take dramatic measures in an effort to mend their fraying open relationship.... Paternity tests aren't taken for grades, but this one nonetheless deserves an A." Jim Gladstone, Passport Magazine

"A compelling, painstakingly honest portrait of a gay couple's logistical and emotional journey to become parents ... a quintessential page-turner." Edge.com

"... readers—both gay and straight—will come away from Lowenthal's novel with a deeper understanding not only of the ethical issues surrounding surrogacy, but also of the ever-evolving gay community." Publishers Weekly

"The beauty of The Paternity Test is Lowenthal's brilliant ability to make the sexuality of his two gay characters secondary. Instead, the focus here is much more universal: it's about a relationship between two people. Gender is not significant. What matters here is love. Sure, it's a complicated, messy, and somewhat dysfunctional love, but it reads and feels like the real thing." Lambda Literary Review

"Lowenthal manages to deal deftly with a huge range of topical issues: interfaith relationships, sibling rivalries, parental expectations, infidelity, the fluidity of desire, and the diversity of Jewish culture... . In Lowenthal's capable hands, The Paternity Test shows the novelist's enduring hallmarks: accessible prose, depth of emotion, and a keen sense of empathy for all of his characters—flaws and all. A compelling read for anyone who wants to know what family truly means today." Wayne Hoffman, Jewish Book World

"Thrilling, funny, sexy, and psychologically complex." Tim Miller for Bay Windows

"Breezy, entertaining, and above all, relevant.... The author has an uncanny eye for detail and the ability to shore up an entire relationship or the unobvious mood in a room with an economy of exacting, carefully chosen words.... Nice work from a talented New England-based author who just keeps getting better." Bay Area Reporter

"Lowenthal's snappy dialogue moves the story along and reveals complexities among the characters, and Pat's first-person narration provides insight into the many often-conflicting motivations behind parenthood.... The parallel story line about Stu's family and his sister's struggles with fertility and adoption offers a useful counterpoint to the main plot, where issues of family, identity, desire, and responsibility collide ... On the whole, Lowenthal handles these many strands with aplomb." Boston Globe

"You have to love a story that makes you a little scared to move on to the next chapter because you've come to care about the characters so much... Rich with angst and eagerness, laced with past-inflicted pain, and yet ... still hopeful.... One of those novels that will stick in your mind. If you miss The Paternity Test, in fact, you'll kick yourself." Long Island Pulse

"Groundbreaking ... With The Paternity Test, Lowenthal shows the same courage he has demonstrated throughout his career by delving into how our private desires collide with our public allegiances." The Rumpus

"Psychologically astute and realistic, the story readily engages the reader in the emotional ups and downs of the journey." Psychology Today

"Lowenthal's descriptions wrest the reader directly into his characters' struggles and delights. Even when his books grapple with questions of sexuality and power, there's nothing didactic or abstract in them. We experience Lowenthal's fictional worlds right alongside his characters—and those worlds are quirky and terrifying and sensuous and redeeming, and absolutely recognizable." Ploughshares blog

"Lowenthal offers a solid read on how relationships hold up or wither away under great stress and what it means to be a family. Sure to appeal to both heterosexual and gay/lesbian readers." Library Journal

"A page-turner thanks to its realistic characters and a situation that might hit close to home for some." The Advocate

"Credit Lowenthal with taking what could have been a safe, sweet story and turning it into something knotted and barbed.... Lowenthal is aiming for something truer to life." Washington Post

"A searing psychological drama." Concord Monitor

"[Lowenthal] convincingly conveys the emotions of a group of people who are trying to start a family and the frustration that comes when it doesn't happen on schedule. Never in a hurry, The Paternity Test starts out at a slow and gentle trot, but works up to brisk pace and, in time, to a can't-look-away ending that will leave readers feeling both shaken and pensive." Gay and Lesbian Review

"A deeply felt account of why having a child is not a sustainable way to make a marriage last. Lowenthal takes a melancholic tone from the very beginning and beautifully carries it through the entire novel in both scene and story." The Good Men Project

"A rich and complex story." Boston Spirit Magazine

"Powerful stuff, starting with an intelligent look at the trials of a long-term relationship and ending with a devastating final chapter that I, for one, didn't see coming at all." Ed Sikov, LitReactor.com

"It's one thing for a fiction writer to take on large and knotty subjects like pedophilia, surrogacy, and the intersection of Judaism and sexual identity. It is quite another to tell these stories with the sort of nuanced and fully fleshed-out characters that make Michael Lowenthal and his work both important and eminently readable." Isthmus

"Just when you think the story is turning one way, [Lowenthal] will throw you a curve ball that changes the direction of the story. He does this several times so that you will feel emotionally invested in these characters, and the last quarter of the book, particularly, is such a page-turner. It is one of those books where you dread turning the page because you care so much about the characters and you become petrified to see the consequences of their actions." Chick Lit Central

"A searingly honest portrait of love under fire, a fearless exploration of what it means to be an adult, a couple, a family. It is a story for our time." Jennifer Haigh, author of Faith and Mrs. Kimble

"So many different relationships are put to the test in Michael Lowenthal's thought-provoking novel—not only the bond at the heart of the book between two gay men and the Brazilian woman acting as their surrogate mother, but also the bond between husbands and wives, between siblings, between aging parents and their adult children. The Paternity Test is a complex, emotionally satisfying, and thoroughly engaging story." Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

"Michael Lowenthal's new novel deftly and wisely explores the various ways families are formed, altered, and destroyed by charting the vagaries and exigencies of two marriages. I loved the complicated, compelling characters who all come vividly alive in the beautifully evoked Cape Cod setting. The Paternity Test is a riveting and wonderful book." Peter Cameron, author of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

"The Paternity Test is a good, old-fashioned page-turner and a sophisticated look at the mysteries of long-term love and the convoluted reasons for wanting a child. Michael Lowenthal writes with intelligence and passion and made me care a great deal about the fates of his flawed, fascinating characters." Stephen McCauley, author of Insignificant Others and The Object of My Affection

"The Paternity Test is an exuberant book—a feat, considering how thoroughly Michael Lowenthal ransacks the human condition for its enduring weaknesses and inevitable disappointments. Yet he manages this with such warmth and wit, bringing to his disparate, often clashing band of characters so much compassionate intelligence, that in the end we can't help rooting for each one to find happiness—even as we come away with a clearer perception of how rightly varied their different versions of happiness may be." Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others