Now we know what happened between Mal, Nova, and Steph. I have mixed feelings about it. What I am sure about is that Mal is the key in all this drama, and he should have handled his affairs better.
We learn more about Steph. When she was fifteen, she used to go out with different men, and then she fell pregnant and had an abortion. The procedure went wrong, and that is why she can’t have children. Mal and Steph meet at a bar, and from the first moment she is smitten and thinks that someone as good as him could ever take her seriously. He seems to be delighted, but it is difficult to say as the book doesn’t delve into his thoughts. From the first moment, Steph is jealous of Nova as he keeps talking about her,and when she meets her, she sees how beautiful she has. That time they talk, and Nova realises the hostile vibes Steph oozes. Yet, they keep a civil relationship. Steph and Mal finally get married. I am not sure if Mal is really in love with Steph, and she keeps saying he loves her. Yet, I have the feeling that part of him wants her because she reminds him of his mother. Like Meredith, Steph has tried to commit suicide several times during her life and has to take medication. The first time she attempted against her life was when she was fifteen, and after she had the abortion, she slashed her wrists. Now at present something could send her to the edge. The last time was when she lost her job.
Then Steph tells Mal that she wants a baby. After discussing several options, they reach the conclusion that they want surrogacy, and after weighing up the different possibilities, they think they could ask Nova. That is a huge thing, and Nova is first in shock and disbelief. Yet, she eventually agrees even though her first reaction was to refuse. So using Mal’s sperm, Nova becomes pregnant. Steph is over the moon, and so is Mal. Steph is excited and keeps visiting Nova and buys things for the baby. Yet, there is a moment that changes everything. Mal is with Nova and asks her to feel the baby, so she lifts her top, and he rests his head on her tummy and eventually kisses it. Nova is uncomfortable because she still has feelings for him, and when he tells her that he wishes they could be doing this for real, Nova can’t stop from lashing out. She lets everything out, about her being in love when they were eighteen, how she wanted to declare her love but he stopped her when he went about friends not being able to be lovers. Then Mal surprises her by saying that he has always loved and wanted her. Yet, that first pass he made at her was a symptom of his infatuation, but he was eighteen and wanted to experiment with girls, and it would be wrong to mislead her and start something when they were still too young. Then when he went to Australia, he went back home earlier because he had realised that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He even bought a ring and intended to propose at the airport. But then she turned up with Keith at the airport, and when he asked her if he was the one she wanted, she simply said that she would marry Keith that very second if he asked her. Now that was what stopped Mal from pursuing her even if what Nova said was just her way to find his approval of Keith. Now it is too late, and even though they long to touch and kiss each other, they can’t do anything and they don’t. I think the scene is very powerful and romantic, but I really feel that Mal is a bit silly. They’ve had years to sort out their feelings, and the relationship between Nova and Keith has been erratic in the best case. I am not sure if Mal loves Steph, but in any case, it was wrong of him to bring someone else to this mess if he didn’t love her as much as he loves Nova. I think he is the one who triggered all the mess with Nova’s baby.
That night he returns home very late, and at once Steph can tell that there is something different. She can tell that there has not been sex between him and Nova, but when he makes love to her, she feels that his self is not with her but with Nova. So from then on Steph becomes obsessed and wants to find proof that her husband is not faithful, and all she finds is a message to Nova the night of the declaration. The message is simply ‘goodnight, beautiful’. From then on Steph thinks that Mal is going to leave her and start a new life with Nova and the baby. So she makes a decision, and when they are away on a walking trip. she tells him that she doesn’t want the baby and he can go and live with Nova and the baby. Mal tells her that he swore he would never leave her, and he doesn’t plan to do so. They have a very passionate discussion, and when Mal tells her that he will stick with her, she makes him promise that he will never see Nova or the baby. I am not sure if Mal decides to stay with Steph because of his wedding vows, or because he knows that she won’t be able to survive without him as she is very similar to his mum. I think what Steph did was wrong, but he wasn’t much better either. And if he wasn’t in love with Steph in the first place, I think he was mean to string her along.
So Mal tells Nova about what they have decided and about breaking ties. We know that Nova keeps the baby and moves away, and this moment is also a turning point for Mal and Steph. I think they are not happy because they are continuously eaten by guilt.
This is a sad story because I think none of the characters are happy, and I can’t think how this can end in a happy note.