Parallel stories explore the outcome of an unusual adoption from the perspective of mother and daughter.
Stewart’s (Saving Love, 2019, etc.) latest novel alternates between two women struggling with life-changing secrets. Gwen Fox is a 25-year-old graduate student pursuing a degree in genetic counseling. At birth, she was adopted by a loving couple who provided her with a wonderful upbringing. Yet in the middle of a seemingly normal morning, Gwen suffers a panic attack so overpowering that she requires hospitalization. In the subsequent weeks, she acknowledges a potent desire to discover the truth about her origins. Little does she suspect that her own biological mother, a woman named Leslie Laudon, is experiencing personal upheaval of her own as she gets ready to send her youngest child to college. Every decision in Leslie’s life has been made with the interests of her children at heart—even the baby girl whom she chose to give away. Yet as time marches forward, she feels increasingly that her needs are coming second to those of her dismissive and controlling husband. The circumstances of Gwen’s adoption are kept shrouded in secrecy until the very end, along with a second, even more surprising twist. Stewart has a knack for creating rich, complicated characters. One standout is Leslie’s daughter, Kerry, who is defiantly vocal about the issues within her family and laudably supportive of her mother. The author treads carefully around the subject of adoption, respectfully noting systematic issues while preserving the emotional complexities of Gwen’s experience. Another intriguing feature is the romantic subplot between Gwen and Griffin, her brothers’ childhood friend. Having been raised in an abusive home, Griffin provides a unique foil to Gwen. Their innocent, upbeat chemistry deepens as they spend time searching for information about Gwen’s past. Stewart’s writing style tends occasionally toward the dramatic, as in this passage about Leslie: “It was hard to stuff it all down. It had always been hard. The ache radiating from her body was reminiscent of a bad sunburn. She was both hot and cold. Sensitive to the slightest touch. A tiny shift of her own body felt excruciating.” Regardless, the author has produced a fast and enjoyable read. The resolution is satisfying, but leaves room for future stories. Fans will be eager to revisit the Fox and Laudon households for a sequel.
An engaging and lifelike representation of two families at a turning point.