Under pressure from his liberal wife, a member of Charleston society reluctantly adopts a baby girl from Korea in this novel by Southerner Warley (The Moralist, 2011, etc.), himself the father of a daughter born in Korea.
In the late 1970s, Elizabeth Carter and her litigating attorney husband, Coleman, are raising their two sons in New Hampton, Va. Elizabeth is a native Kansan. Although she plays the part of traditional wife and mother, she’s a quiet rebel—i.e., she won’t join the Junior League—who has always wanted to adopt a Korean baby. Coleman, on the other hand, was raised in Charleston by parents who drummed into his head the danger inherent in threatening their traditional values: God, family and South Carolina (by which they meant established Charleston families) above all. He has serious reservations about bringing an Asian child into the family, but he acquiesces, recognizing that it’s time to cast off his parents’ fear of change. Meanwhile, in Korea, a young mother reluctantly gives up her beloved infant, knowing that adoption in America is her daughter’s one chance to survive and prosper. That child becomes Allie, the Carters’ new daughter. Shortly after her arrival from Korea, the family moves back to Charleston, the only home Allie will know. Smart and adorable, she fits into the Carters’ lives more seamlessly than either parent might have expected, and Coleman especially adores her. When tragedy strikes less than halfway through the novel, he rises to the occasion. But seven years later, when Allie is a Princeton-bound high school senior, a seemingly trivial issue—her exclusion from a society ball—becomes a major crisis. After Coleman fails to win over the society’s board members, several of whom he counts as close friends, a Jewish ACLU attorney from New York pressures him to sue for discrimination.
Although manipulatively written, with a heavy-handed plot and a cast of noble Asians, Warley’s story offers a surprisingly nuanced take on political correctness.