Sperm-donor half siblings, friends with gay parents, and stay-at-home dads who run away with other men or with younger women, or dads who reside in prison for vehicular manslaughter—Harvey weaves far-ranging family and gender strands together.
Harry (short for Harriet) has always known she is a product of her blonde, blue-eyed “Single Mother by Choice” Della and an anonymous sperm donor, “a tall, part-Latino medical student.” Deeply saddened by a recent breakup, Harry keeps busy transcribing her mother’s research on Seattle’s homeless girls. A chance encounter with a tabloid story about donor siblings and the risk of “accidental incest” piques her interest and conjures icky scenarios (“I really like you, but I want to make sure we’re not related before I get in your pants”). Harry begins to secretly explore her genetic roots; in an end-of-summer synopsis she tells a friend “I was so bored I found five half-siblings, my donor and a trans boyfriend.” A troubled half sib briefly turns the story dark and violent; the gift of a carpenter’s spirit level provides the title and grounding symbol for Harry, whose narrative voice is genuine and entertaining. Harvey neatly and matter-of-factly incorporates a wide range of family styles and relationships, dysfunctional to healthy.
Plenty of drama and a laundry list of catchy, contemporary issues make this an eventful, intriguing read. (Fiction. 12-16)