Friday, July 17, 2009

In a Country of Mothers by A.M. Holmes

I loved A.M. Holmes memoir, The Mistress' Daughter. I can remember sitting on the floor of BandN at 86th and Park, reading the whole book in its entirety.  Holmes story is fascinating; she was adopted, and eventually reunites with her biological parents, inviting into her life a great deal of chaos, manipulation, drama and secrecy.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that Holmes included a great deal of research on both her biological and adopted family. She found records of her grandparents' marriages.  I remember going home and deciding I needed to find out more about my own family history.

I was super excited to read fiction by Holmes; and this novel did not disappoint.  It is in many ways a psychological thriller, as engaging as my favorite psychological thrillers (written by Elizabeth Brundage).  I love the timeless quality of this novel. It was written in 1993, and so there is very little mention of the technology that currently dominates our lives.  And yet it is a truly modern novel.  Part of this novel focuses on a twenty-something trying to figure out her life. She is a witty film student and assistant who has a knack for charming people and making them laugh.  The first chapter begins with Jody Goodman calling a shrink because she is unsure if she should attend film graduate school (even though she is already enrolled).  "Hi, this is Jody Goodman, you don't know me. I'm having some trouble making career decisions."  I was immediately drawn in.  I will say it aloud myself: "I am having some trouble making career decisions."  The other main character Claire is a forty-something shrink who is still overcoming her past, as well as having problems with her preteen son and her family life with a husband and two sons.  Claire becomes Jody's therapist and they develop a deep intimacy  until the relationship extends beyond normal professional boundaries.  

Jody, was in therapy before, as she is an adopted child who was adopted shortly after her parent's biological son died.  Her life is in many ways defined by this huge loss, much the way the daughter in A Widow for One Year is affected by the deaths of the brothers she never met (and the empty hooks where all their photos once resided).  Jody, has a magnetic and endearing personality and people in the film industry are drawn to her.  Claire is drawn to Jody as well, especially because she gave a baby girl up for adoption in the same city (Washington D.C.)  and year that Jody was born.  Claire begins to be obsessed with Jody and believes she is the daughter she gave up for adoption.   There is an element of suspense: Is Jody really Claire's daughter? Could such a coincidence occur?  I will let you discover the answer yourself. I will say the situation develops to an amazing crescendo.  

This novel raises so many questions, about adoption, and family, about the real value of therapy, about the lives of therapists, about taking risks and about desire.  I highly recommend this book.  

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