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FAMILY TREE by Barbara Delinsky

FAMILY TREE

By Barbara Delinsky

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2007
ISBN: 0-385-51865-X
Publisher: Doubleday

Delinsky’s latest family saga (Looking for Peyton Place, 2005, etc.) explores how a white, upper-middle-class New England couple would react if the wife gave birth to an African-American baby.

Hugh Clarke, a good-hearted Boston lawyer in his mid-30s, hails from impeccable Mayflower lineage. His beloved wife Dana never knew her father and was raised after her mother’s untimely death by grandmother Ellie Jo, proprietor of a successful yarn shop. The Clarkes are overjoyed at the birth of their healthy daughter, Elizabeth, though startled by the baby’s dark, curly hair and coppery skin. Hugh’s parents insinuate that perhaps he’s not the father. Confounded and hurt (as well as suspicious that Lizzie may have been sired by their attractive black neighbor), Hugh convinces his increasingly resentful wife to have a DNA test. It confirms that Hugh is the father and indicates that the baby carries the sickle-cell gene—inherited, subsequent tests reveal, not from Dana, but from Hugh. Was the reader ever in doubt? Hugh stands up to his superior father, a historian who seems more concerned about the impact of Lizzie’s color on the reception of his new book than about the truth. Dana finds and confronts her father, while everybody at Ellie Jo’s yarn shop gets to swoon over the newborn. Delinsky vigorously takes on some thorny racial assumptions here (i.e., that the dark-skinned child will not comfortably attend white-dominated schools) and admirably allows her characters to acknowledge and correct their biases.

Fail-safe delivery of an issues-packed story perfect for reading groups.