I absolutely love how social media connects you with people you might otherwise never connect with… This summer, when our virtual book club, Mom’s Book Nook read A House for Happy Mothers, our Instagram post connected us with the author, Amulya Malladi. She not only offered to answer our questions, but she joined our monthly book club discussion to field questions from the group and participate in our monthly discussion! Catch our discussion with her and subsequent book club discussion of A House for Happy Mother’s below. Want to be a part of our virtual Book Club? Join Mom’s Book Nook on Facebook!
A House for Happy Mothers – A Heartwarming Read for Mothers Everywhere
Every month at the end of our monthly book club discussion, we ask participants to recommend books for the next month. Then we vote. Confession – I didn’t vote for this book. After reading the synopsis – a story about Indian surrogacy – I didn’t think I would identify with the characters or the story.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. A House for Happy Mothers is a story that will touch every mother, no matter your economic circumstances, geographic location, or your journey to becoming one. It is a unifying tale of the challenges, unquestionable love, and the sacrifices all mothers make for their children – and each other – everyday.
Q&A with A House for Happy Mothers Author, Amulya Malladi
Each month, we announce our Mom’s Book Nook selection on Instagram. When author Amulya Malladi liked our post of her book – I fangirled out a little bit. And then decided to drop her a message to see if she would be interested in participating in our monthly book club discussion. She very generously agreed! Below is a synopsis of our Q&A from our book club discussion, followed by our book club discussion questions for A House for Happy Mothers.
Q1. A House for Happy Mother’s addresses what are all too often under or completely undiscussed topics surrounding motherhood. From fertility and miscarriages, the impact of those struggles (and children too) on marriage, and of course, surrogacy.
What inspired you to write about the surrogacy industry in India? And what was your research process like for the story?
“Well it all started with a BBC documentary. It was about a British couple using the services of this now famous Gujarat clinic. And I was fascinated. I kept thinking that conception is abstract but pregnancy is real. How would the surrogate deal with that? And what about the biological mother? So I decided to answer my question by writing a book.
“For research I did a lot online what I call Google Walk. I chatted with a few parents who’d used surrogates; read studies about surrogate mothers and their feelings. But, alas, never spoke to a surrogate mother.
“I couldn’t get access. These women are not online and I’d have to go to India to talk to them. But an interesting side story; at my only book reading in Denmark one woman told me that her sister-in-law in India was using a surrogate and because she didn’t want anyone to know walked around with a fake belly. I wish I’d known before I wrote the book because I would’ve explored this. It’s fascinating the ends we go to to have babies. It’s sad that our identities as women are so tied up with our identities as mothers. If you don’t give birth you’re a lesser woman.
“I spoke to this woman in Denmark who’d done quite a bit of research and that was interesting. The emotional turmoil of surrogacy is not discussed.”
Q2. I recently read Indian surrogacy is a $400 million industry. And because of many of the concerns for the women involved as surrogates you outline in your book, India was trying to pass legislation last year to put stricter limits on foreign surrogacy, among others. The book does an incredible job of telling the story from all sides –
What do you most want your readers to walk away understanding from your book? What is the state of surrogacy in India today?
“Well, there is a new law and that has turned things around. I don’t know if the law has been passed but the draft was quite unimpressive. They said it was to help the surrogate and make sure she doesn’t get exploited but it appeared to be a way to ensure gay people, white people, mixed people don’t get to have babies through surrogates in India. So…I’m not sure what got passed, haven’t looked at it but the draft was not enough.”
When you first started writing were you focused mostly on Asha’s story or Priya’s? Both characters were so strong, I found myself wondering who you concentrated on first or if the relationship was always the primary focus?
“Both. They were both important. Both their names mean hope and when I first wrote it I went with the title THE MELANCHOLY OF HOPE which everyone hated. So it was a story of hope – one woman giving hope to another. I wanted to know them both.”
Q3. I read that this was your first book published by Amazon (though your 6th published book).
How was it to publish on the Amazon publishing platform? What has been the reader response to A House for Happy Mothers?
“Okay, first thing, I LOVE LAKE UNION!! It has been the best publishing experience so far. If I could Amazon and have babies with it I would. Really. They treat me with respect and I don’t feel like I’m a mid-list writer waiting to get the boot. They promote my books and not just that first month. My editor gets back to me within hours. And I have sold more books than I ever have before.
“The reader response…well you can see the reviews. I think some people loved it and some didn’t. It’s always hard when people don’t love your book because you want five star reviews from EVERYONE. And as an author you ONLY remember the one star reviews and none of the others.
“For example, I just got the Booklist review for THE COPENHAGEN AFFAIR (released September 26th!!!!). They gave AHFHM a starred review. This was mostly a good review with one sentence that wasn’t. Now I’m panicking that everyone is going to hate the book.”
Q4. Because our favorite question of the night is ALWAYS, “What should we read next?” and since we already started to talk about it…
Tell us a little about your new book, The Copenhagen Affair, coming out in September 2017…
“Oh you absolutely should read THE COPENHAGEN AFFAIR As Booklist says it’s “The Copenhagen Affair balances the gravity of personal transformation with an entertaining romp through Denmark”
” I call it a comedy about depression. I wrote it when I was depressed. The main character, Sanya is the character closest to me. And I promise you’ll fall in love with Copenhagen. You can read more about The Copenhagen Affair here.”
Related Post: 8 Tips for Awesome Book Club Selections
Book Club Discussion Questions for A House for Happy Mothers
Laura from Sunny Day Family and Erika from Pray Species and I take turns hosting and planning questions for our monthly book club discussions in Mom’s Book Nook. We start and end every discussion with the same questions each month. The rest vary… below is our discussion set for A House for Happy Mothers. Note: this is a shorter list than most months, as the first half of our discussion was with the author.
Q1. What did you think of the book – Love it? Hate it? Couldn’t put it down?
Q2. While many of us may have little to no experience with surrogacy ourselves, A House for Happy Mothers in so many ways is really a story of motherhood and the sacrifices we make as mothers. What aspects of motherhood did you most identify with in the story?
Q3. A House for Happy Mothers frames both the sides of the paid surrogacy debate – those who see it as taking advantage of women, and those who see it as helping these women and their families out of poverty while also giving a family a baby. It also paints a fuller picture of the complexities of the process. Where do you stand in the discussion after reading the book?
Q4. There are some amazing quotes in the book about family, motherhood, and relationships in general. What are some of your favorite quotes, anecdotes from the novel? Here are a few of our members favorites:
Priya’s take on family through the experience of loss and surrogacy:
And one very important thing I learned is that you and I, we’re family. Complete. Our child…makes our family bigger, changes the dynamic, but doesn’t change the cord of it.
About the relationship between Priya and her mother:
You keep going to a bookstore and asking for a dozen red roses. They obviously don’t have red roses and you come home disappointed. That’s what’s going on with your mother. You keep expecting roses and keep getting disappointed. I know not to ask for roses at a bookstore.
To Priya on from the Surrogacy Message Boards:
It’s like women who forget how tough the labor and delivery was – this is our labor and delivery, this is our pain and suffering. No one said it was going to be easy, but it is beautiful in the end.
A husband’s commentary on his SAHM wife’s life (this one struck a BIG nerve!):
You have freedom. The kids go to school and preschool. How busy can you be during the day? We have a cleaning lady who does the cleaning and the laundry. You hardly ever cook. We get our groceries delivered or I go to Whole Foods. What is it you do all day that takes your freedom away?
SPOILER ALERT – the last paragraphs of the book:
Though their social circumstances, their different worlds-they had touched each other in an irrevocable way. Their bond, not something that would be renewed, could nevertheless not be broken.
Their names meant “hope”, and they had given hope to each other, and this was what brought them together, closed that gap between them, eliminated the social and class differences, made them sisters, mothers-made then equals.
Q5. What should we read next for Mom’s Book Nook next month?
More About Amulya Malladi
Amulya Malladi is the author of seven novels, including A House for Happy Mothers, The Sound of Language, The Mango Season, and her latest just out this month, The Copenhagen Affair. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil.
She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive. After several years living in Copenhagen with her family, she now lives outside Los Angeles with her husband and two boys.
More About Mom’s Book Nook
Love to read? But no longer have the time for book club in real life? Mom’s Book Nook makes it easy for mom’s like us who still love great reads and witty book discussion to STILL participate. We collectively pick one great book a month, and meet to discuss virtually in our Mom’s Book Nook Facebook group on the last Monday of every month at 9PM ET.
Join from the comfort of your home, in your pjs, after you put the kids to bed. Hope to see you there! Want to see all we’ve read to date? Check out the Mom’s Book Nook home page, or follow us on Instagram to catch our current book pick and quotes from our reads. For more great book recommendations, follow our Mom’s Book Nook board on Pinterest.