Category Archives: Books

Somebody Else's Daughter

The first thing I did when I received an advance copy of Somebody Else’s Daughter from the author, Elizabeth Brundage, was to check the back cover.

Wally Lamb, author of She’s Come Undone (one of my favorite books) has this to say:

“Students, parents, teachers, townies: Somebody Else’s Daughter is a deft balancing act of taut plot and richly drawn characters struggling to find their moral centers as they grope in the dark for the transformative power of love. I didn’t so much read this novel as devour it. Brundage is a storyteller supreme.”

So my expectations were high.

And they were met. Mostly.

There’s something in this book for everyone. There’s feminism and p.0r.n, classism and addiction, AIDS and abuse, religion and affairs, prostitution and predation, adoption loss and adoption gain (the author herself is a happily adopted person, her words).

And there are characters galore:

  • Nate and Cat and the infant daughter they can’t raise, Willa.
  • Joe and Candace who become Willa’s parents, and who carry a deep secret.
  • Claire, the sculptor, and her son Teddy, who struggles in school and is dating Willa.
  • Jack, the headmaster of the exclusive school in the Berkshires, and his dutiful wife, Maggie.
  • Ada and Pearl, teen girls from different worlds.

The story starts as several unconnected threads. Through character development and story-weaving, Brundage brings together these threads for some interesting juxtapositions, such as the feminist and the p.0r.n producer, the girl who was adopted (and who thus has 4 parents) and the girl who has no parents, and the biological father and the adoptive father. It’s like the day in science class when you experiment with magnets and watch the opposites’ inevitable pull.

I found the first part of the book to be a tad slow. But once I got into the characters and could feel the threads interweaving, I was hooked. So much so that I put off finishing the book because I wasn’t ready for it to end yet (but I was on deadline!).

And then the ending was just a bit too tidy for my taste. There was a lot of suspense building up to the climactic scene, but the denouement cleared up too easily and quickly, off-pace with the slower beginning.

Nevertheless, I recommend this book for its storytelling, characters and plot. A bonus for me was a peek into the mind of an adopted teenage girl.

Which chilled me to the bone. (The “teen” part, not the “adopted” part).

I received a free book for purposes of providing an honest review.

About Face

I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicles the period after the sudden death of the author’s husband’s and the concurrent illness of her adult daughter.

On the back cover is an intriguing photo, one with such interesting composition and mystery that I’ve found myself staring into it on occasion. It was taken in Malibu in 1976. I play the guessing game with myself.

I think on their names. John Dunne and Joan Didion — Irish, perhaps? Quintana Roo, their daughter. Must have a connection to Mexico — hopefully it will be explained in the book. She looks to be about my age that year.

I study their faces. Yup, Quintana looks like the perfect combination of John’s facial structure and Joan’s self-assured sassy. She looks as though she’d like the photographer to leave already, and let her get back to the conversation she was having with her parents.

face watcher

I read for several nights. I find out, as part of a casual mention, that Quintana was adopted. On page 118: “…John and I had brought Quintana home from St John’s Hospital. She was three days old.” Not much of a clue until two pages later: “We took Quintana there on the day of her adoption, when she was not quite seven months old.” (No other mention so far, so I am still guessing at the story and filling in with what I can intuit.)

I study the photo again with this new information. I look at the faces to re-verify their connections.

I do this face-study thing often, and I wonder if I do it more often than others. I look for genetic clues in faces to see if families are biological or adoptive. I look for similarities in chins, matching mouths, equal smiles, companion expressions, between children and parents and among children.

I wonder if, on this playground or at that school function, there are other families like us — connected by biography rather than biology.

Do you? Study faces?