The Paternity Test

“To open any of Michael Lowenthal’s novels is to be struck by the visceral power of his images.  From a woman’s “depthless smile” to a man with a belly like a rucksack, from flags snapping in the wind at a WWI parade to a description of an adolescent boy’s braces to a heartbreaking scene of two women doing each other’s makeup in a mirror-less room, 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.”

–from “Orthodoxy, Humor, and the Bookstore of Your Dreams: An Interview with Michael Lowenthal” posted on the Ploughshares blog on November 16, 2012 by Rachel Kadish.  (For more, please go to:

Michael Lowenthal rolls his eyes at pretentiously irrelevant author-bio lists of the writer’s oddest occupations, so he will refrain from dwelling on the fact that he has worked as a dishwasher, a beer bottler, a medical guinea pig, and an Amish horse trader’s assistant.  Truth is, he spends most of his time reading and writing, and sometimes even gets paid for it — which seems to him the very definition of “life could be worse.”  Speaking of which, his writing has earned him fellowships at a castle in Scotland and on an island off the coast of Brazil.  Said writing has included four novels: The Paternity Test (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), The Same EmbraceAvoidance, and Charity Girl, which was a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” title, a Washington Post “Top Fiction of 2007” selection, and a Book Sense Top Twenty Pick.  Michael lives in Boston and divides his time between the kitchen and the living room couch.  He is also a core faculty member in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University.

Description of The Paternity Test: Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother? Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.

As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American home rebuilder. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?

In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”

Look for The Paternity Test in your local bookstore!

For more information see:


About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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