Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
ISBN: 9781250010742 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250010735 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781427261991 (audiobook)
ASIN: B00V3ABTLU (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She and her husband live in San Diego, where they hope to soon adopt a baby. But the process terrifies her.
As the questions and background checks come one after another, Molly worries that the truth she’s kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. She ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved: Her mother, the woman who raised her and who Molly says is dead but is very much alive. Her birth mother, whose mysterious presence raised so many issues. The father she adored, whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge.
Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a future filled with promise, she discovers that even she doesn’t know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.
Told with Diane Chamberlain’s compelling prose and gift for deft exploration of the human heart, Pretending to Dance is an exploration of family, lies, and the complexities of both.
Molly Arnette has been married to Aidan James for ten years. Both are lawyers with Molly practicing Family Law and Aidan currently teaching Immigration Law at a local university. Unable to have children of their own, they have decided to adopt. One of the things Molly and Aidan pride themselves on is their ability to discuss anything and everything. But in preparing their adoption file, Molly begins to remember the summer her father died and worries that the lies she’s told to Aidan and the adoption agency may destroy her chance at having a family in Diane Chamberlain’s latest, Pretending to Dance.
Molly Arnette grew up in a small town in North Carolina. Her father, Graham, was a psychologist specializing in “pretend” therapy, based on the idea that “if you pretend you’re the sort of person you want to be, you will gradually become that person.” He also suffered from a debilitating form of MS. Molly’s “mother” or adoptive mother, Nora, is a pharmacist. Molly’s birth mother, Amalia, lives on family land and teaches Molly to dance. The summer Molly turned fourteen was a summer to remember for a variety of reasons: her first romance, befriending Stacy Bateman, helping her father with his last book, her father’s book tour, attending the New Kids on the Block concert, learning the truth about her birth and adoption, and her father’s death (or murder, in her mind). Now Molly is thirty-eight years old and has limited contact with her family in North Carolina. She’s told Aidan and the adoption agency that her parents are deceased, but that’s not exactly true. The process of adoption, especially an open adoption, is something that she likes on paper but is somewhat wary given her own experiences. The further along Molly and Aiden get in the adoption process, the more stressed Molly becomes. She knows that just because she’s been pretending to be an orphan won’t make it true. Can she ever tell Aidan the truth about her background without it destroying her marriage? Will an adoptive mother ever choose them and bless them with a child? And will Molly ever truly learn the truth about her father’s death?
I found Pretending to Dance to be a quick and engaging read. Molly’s story is told by alternating between her life in 2014 and the summer of 1990. Ms. Chamberlain has provided the reader with an amazing glimpse into the life and mind of Molly Arnette as both a fourteen-year-old and as a thirty-eight-year-old. The more we learn about the fourteen-year-old Molly, the easier it is to understand the thoughts and actions of the thirty-eight-year-old Molly. Adoption can be a wonderful process for the adoptive parents and child, and an equally hard and grief-imposing process for the birth mother. Open adoption is one way to minimize the harshness and grief for the birth mother by permitting her to continue to be a part of her child’s life. I can understand why Molly had qualms about open adoption, even if she hadn’t lived with it as a child. The adoptive mother may always wonder if she will lose her child’s love and affection to its birth mother as if it is a competition rather than a new way to build a family. Added into these issues Molly is having with open adoption is the fact that she’s been contacted by a cousin about her birth mother and her declining health. The overwhelming idea that I took away from reading this book is that it isn’t possible to pretend away our past no matter how much we lie to ourselves or want it to go away. There are a lot of issues raised in Pretending to Dance: the ever-changing definition of family, adoption, the possibility of false memories, teenage angst and drama, the impact of living with a chronic and debilitating illness, lies, and secrets. Does Molly ever come to grips with her past? Does she reveal the truth to Aidan? Will they be chosen by a birth mother and finally be able to start a family? For the answer to these questions and more, you’ll need to grab a copy of Pretending to Dance and read it to find out.
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