McDonough (Two of a Kind, 2013, etc.) imagines a polite tug of war with an abandoned baby at its center.
Miranda Berenzweig is in her mid-30s and feeling stuck, unable to compete with her friends’ promotions and relationships. Recently dumped and wading through the waters of online dating, she trades messages with photographer and consummate nice guy Evan Zuckerbrot. After a night out in Manhattan with friends, Miranda has no idea that her life is about to change when she finds a baby girl who has been abandoned on a subway platform. With no prospects beyond foster care in sight for the baby, Miranda is granted custody and put on the fast track for adoption. Evan is thrilled by her luck and eager to declare his love for both Miranda and the new baby, Celeste. When a persistent reporter persuades her to do an interview, she gains the attention of the baby’s biological father, Jared Masters. Miranda, who had settled into the idea of abrupt motherhood, loses baby Celeste, now named Lily. The narrative hops among Miranda, Jared and Evan as they deal with bruised egos, broken hearts and new beginnings, while all involved parties are forced to evaluate what it means to be a parent and whether they are truly up for the task. The novel is rigidly plotted and so hung up on the hope of discovering love in unlikely places that character development falls flat. The prose is uneven, with some expertly crafted passages—most describing Miranda’s culinary prowess—hiding in pages of bland dialogue and tired language.
McDonough puts a relentlessly optimistic spin on what could have been a tragic headline.