Kirby Rose turns 18, hops on a Greyhound bus from St. Louis to Manhattan and with no warning, knocks on the Fifth Avenue apartment door of her birth mother, Marian Caldwell—a move that will send them both on a journey of rediscovery, questioning everything they thought they knew about love, family, secrets and second chances.
Kirby is a classic underachiever in a family who values things she scorns and is mystified by the things she loves. Adopted when she was days old to a couple who’d concluded they’d never have kids, she’s grown up on the story, as much a part of the family history as the surprise of her sister’s “real” birth 11 months later. It’s only when she gets to high school that she feels disconnected to her adoptive family, and by the time she’s a senior, there’s a frustration on all sides that Kirby has failed in some way. Not clear on her own motivations, Kirby sets out to find her birth mother, landing unannounced on Marian’s Manhattan penthouse doorstep. Connecting with her daughter knocks Marian off her content, polished life path—and forces her to question the choices she’s made, the secrets she’s kept, the people she loves and the ones she’s left behind. Ultimately, Kirby and Marian will set off together to find the one person they both need to put all the pieces together, offering Kirby the confidence to embrace who she really is and Marian the opportunity to right some long-standing transgressions. Along the way, both women will revisit questions of family, identity, secrets and love—and what it truly means to belong. Giffin delivers an emotionally poignant and reflective look at teen pregnancy through a rearview mirror and how 18 years later, one woman’s hindsight is sometimes too easy, and sometimes too hard, on her adolescent self. And yet, on a certain level, as all parties come to understand, it doesn’t exactly matter. What really matters is how one chooses to live today—to express love, to live authentically and to embrace life itself, even when it lands on your doorstep in unexpected ways when you’re least prepared for it.
Giffin’s moving storyline offers great pacing, believable, disparate characters and a plot that could easily careen into maudlin territory, unlikable stereotypes or over-the-top emotionalism but never does: a sweet, even-keeled winner.