Published by St. Martin's Press on October 6th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Women, Family Life
Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can't have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly's past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison's Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father's death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?
In Pretending to Dance, Molly and her husband are preparing to adopt a baby through open adoption. This process brings up some painful family memories for Molly- secrets that Molly fears will threaten the adoption as well as her marriage.
The synopsis of this one really drew me in- I was so curious to know what secrets Molly was hiding! Also, this is the second book I’ve read recently about open adoption, and it’s a quite interesting hook for a story. Pretending to Dance plays out in two timelines- we see Molly in the present day in San Diego going through the adoption process, alternated with the events of that fateful summer in 1990 that changed everything.
I have to say it took me some time to get into this book. I was reading a little every night before bed and it took me like a week to get to 30%. But the next week I powered through and got really hooked on the story, particularly the “coming-of-age” portion of the book. So, this is a book to be patient with but the payoff is big.
Molly had an unconventional upbringing and that plays into her unease about open adoption. Molly’s birth mother Amalia lived in the same town as Molly, her father Graham, and her adoptive mother Nora, and it could get awkward at times. Can Molly handle an open adoption given her past?
Growing up, Molly had a very close relationship with her father Graham, a therapist famous for his “pretend therapy” approach. Graham’s progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis meant that he was not able to do many of the things he used to do and needed a full-time caregiver, and Molly helped by transcribing his books.
The 1990 setting was full of pop culture references, and Molly’s room was littered with New Kids on the Block posters. NKOTB were pushed aside for Judy Blume’s Forever, though, when a new friend introduces her to an older boy.
The reader can figure some things out that fourteen-year-old Molly can’t see, and there are some secrets that are unearthed later. This is an absorbing read that I couldn’t put down until I had all the pieces of the story.
I really enjoyed the father-daughter relationship in this book, and the interesting family dynamics. Since much of the book is a coming-of-age story I think this one will appeal to a crossover audience. I read that the author drew on her own experience as a social worker for the “pretend therapy” in the book. Chamberlain also writes about the inspiration for Graham on her blog.
This is the first book I’ve read by Diane Chamberlain but after enjoying this one so much I look forward to catching up with her other work.