UNEXPECTED CHILD by Patricia Grossman


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A single woman struggles modishly with her decision to adopt a young child orphaned by AIDS.

Meg Krantz, a potter who creates goddess vases and pots to sell at craft shows, finds it ironic that women often buy them as fertility charms. Perhaps because of her difficult relationship with her own mom, Meg has scarcely given a thought to the idea of becoming a mother herself—until Barry Toffler, a client of the HIV/AIDS service agency where she volunteers, dies suddenly and leaves Meg his four-year-old daughter Kimble in a hastily scrawled will. Touched by the plight of a child whose mother also died of AIDS, Meg is reluctant to turn her over to the Child Welfare social workers, but knows that eventually she’ll have to. When Kimble’s unstable grandmother enters the picture, all must await a decision on the child’s custody from the various social service agencies involved. Meg takes the time to ruminate wryly on the ups and downs of the bohemian life she leads in an illegal loft in Lower Manhattan; runs into (and beds) her beautiful but shallow former lover Sarina; wrangles with her acerbic therapist, who hands out bluntly unconventional advice; and wonders whether she really has what it takes to be a mother after all. Unfortunately, the little girl at issue remains invisible for much of the story, as Grossman concentrates in minute detail on the lesbian heroine’s endless exploration of her past, her feelings, and her fears. The downtown, self-consciously hip setting is defined by its trendy decor and arty clothes, which the author points out all too carefully. Arch dialogue adds to the general air of unreality—and often incomprehensibility, as in the sage reflection “But no, the tyranny of children was their categorical thereness.”

An unemotional and rather contrived treatment of a potentially poignant subject.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-55583-544-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Alyson
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2000


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