A revelation opens old wounds and spurs new questions for a fiercely independent reporter in Danby’s debut novel.
While paging through a diary belonging to her recently decreased mother, London Herald journalist Rose Haldane learns she was adopted as a child. “I spent my whole childhood wanting Mum to be pleased with me, but she never was,” Rose tells her grandmother. “Every time she looked at me she must have seen nothing of herself to love.” Using the investigative skills she honed as a reporter, Rose sets out to find her biological parents, declaring: “Until I do, I don’t know where I belong.” The complications that ensue are predictable. To Rose’s disappointment, record-keeping practices and privacy standards were very different when she was born in 1968, slowing her search. Yet for others in Rose’s life, the process moves much too quickly. The discovery of the adoption forces Rose’s sister, Lily, to confront fears of infertility. And Rose’s adoptive father, John, is hesitant to delve into the past—a reluctance Rose can appreciate if not quite accept. Although she wants the truth, she also has misgivings. What if her biological parents are criminals or dead? What if she is the product of rape? And perhaps most importantly: if she isn’t Rose Haldane, who is she? Danby does an able job of tackling those queries and more with honesty and empathy. Although the story centers on Rose, several chapters are written from the perspective of Lily, whose own arc reveals itself slowly throughout the book and, ultimately, provides a surprise ending. Unfortunately, the rest of Danby’s cast is thinly realized. Rose’s love interest, Nick, seems to function only as a plot device. And while intriguing in broad strokes, Danby shies away from dipping too deeply into what could have been a fascinating subplot—the motivations of Rose’s adoptive and biological mothers. That’s a shame because all the other elements necessary for a family potboiler are here.
A family drama that remains warm and witty, despite its weighty subject matter.