Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family Tree - Barbara Delinsky (Kindle)



On September 22, I attended my very first book club meeting. I've been searching for one for ages, but have found that some book clubs are about anything BUT books. More often, they are the perfect opportunity to complain about the husband, brag about the kids, and gossip. If they get around to discussing the book of the month, this is just an added perk. This was not the case with this group of ladies. We ate, we laughed, we talked books. The selection for this month was "Family Tree" by Barbara Delinsky.

Dana and Hugh Clarke are the golden couple. Young and attractive, both with lucrative jobs, they are expecting their first baby. They live in a stately ocean-front home, afforded by not only successful careers, but Hugh's wealthy, Mayflower-decended, and rather snooty family of priviledge. Dana, on the other hand, never knew her one-night-stand father, and was raised by her grandmother when her mother died young. None of this really mattered, though, until...

the baby was born. With black features. Then all hell breaks loose. Did Dana have an affair with the handsome black neighbor? Is there an African American in her undocumented geneology? Accusations fly, trust is destroyed, and what should have been the happiest day of Dana's life turns into a nightmare. Who would have known that so many upstanding, honorable, do-gooder people in her life were actually closet bigots? To shut everyone up, Dana not only takes a paternity test, which is demeaning, but attempts to track down her parentage. Soon, multiple family secrets are revealed. The proverbial skeletons in the closet are not only out in the open, they are all partying on the front lawn with a live band and beer kegs.

Threaded throughout the primary plot are also themes of paternal responsibilities, fidelity, integration, false selves, and good old fashioned come-uppance.

The plot is intriguing and controversial. It was easy to feel Dana's terror, confusion and disappointment - can you even imagine the chaos that would ensue if two white people gave birth to a black baby? It is also not that hard to imagine the hypocrites coming out of the woodwork. You know, the ones that would volunteer on a committee to raise money for poor black children, but don't want it in their back yard? As sensitive as the topic is, it was handled with grace and tact. Now, is this another To Kill a Mockingbird or The Help? No. It is more of a Prejudice 101 "lite".

I didn't have much of a connection with Dana personally, however. While I sympathized with her situation, I often felt that she complained enough to feel like she was beating a dead horse. Issues, attitudes, insecurities and trust were discussed over and over again. I got the point already! I also did not love her husband Hugh either. While he had his strong points, he felt slightly unstable and weak. I'm not sure I could have forgiven him.

What the book club had to say: They may have liked the book a tad more than I did, but overall it seemed the group shared my sentiments. The book did inspire long discussions about the attitudes we see, even today, towards people of color...starting in high school and extending onward...attitudes we wish weren't there. We veered off course every so slightly to talk about men of color that would look good naked (sorry, but this was inevitable in a group of women). One club member admitted to having dated a black guy. Would we be understanding if our daughters or sons did the same? We talked about adoption - would we want to adopt a black, Hispanic or Asian baby? Bottom line? The book isn't going to blow your mind, but presents a premise that inspires thought-provoking questions.


3 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I'm pleased that you've managed to find a good book group. I actually think it is good to pick a book that not everyone likes - it promotes a much better discussion. I hope the next meeting is just as good!

Kaye said...

I laughed at your description of some book clubs. I asked one of my nieces what her book club was reading and her sister piped up with " you mean the wine tasting club?" So much for reading! It's great that you found a good club. Delinsky is usually a good read but this one doesn't sound as if the characters resonated with you.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - wait until next month! We are reading a paranormal "true story". It is something I truly never would have picked up. We shall see...

Kaye - Well, there was definitely wine being consumed at this meeting, but wasn't the focus. I was really happy that everyone seemed excited to talk books!

Andreea said...

I don't think I would read this book, but I liked your review as it makes the book sound interesting! I'm glad you found a book club that you like!

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I've only read one Delinsky book, but not this one, and felt the same way about the characters. They were ok, but nothing special. It does sound like an interesting read for a club!

Beth F said...

First, glad you connected with a book club. And second, as light as the book was, it did start a discussion on some sensitive issues.

Iliana said...

Never read a Delinsky book as I always assumed she wrote romance novels. I don't know that I'd really like this one but just glad to hear you found a book group you liked! It's so hard to connect with the right one isn't it? Hope the next book also leads to a good discussion!

Jenners said...

I'm glad you found a good book group. I hope to find one someday. I was in one quite a while ago and it was such a bad experience that I've shied away from them since.

The books sounds like it would be ripe for a lively discussion -- though it makes you wonder if you might "uncover" some closet bigotry in your book group members with a topic like this!

ds said...

I am glad that you found a good book group; they are rare! Hope you continue to enjoy it, and the discussions!

bermudaonion said...

Oh, you're a lucky duck to have found a great book club like that. The book sounds like it brought up a lot of great discussion topics.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I'm glad you reviewed this one, Sandy. It's one I've seen but wasn't sure if I was interested in or if it would be worth the sticker price.

Wish I lived in your neighborhood and could join your bookclub!!!!

ps....when/where does the Rebecca group read start???? I'm so disorganized in my moving saga, but leave it to me to remember about Rebecca, LOL!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Andreea - no, this book definitely wouldn't be for everyone. It was fun discussing it though!

Melissa - I guess that is the beauty of a book club...you read things you otherwise would not even attempt!

Beth - and we were at it for hours. Great conversation starter, that is for sure!

Iliana - I know, that is her reputation, isn't it? And that is just not my thing. This definitely wasn't romantic, which to me was a good thing.

Jenners - I have heard horror stories, which is probably why it has taken me 43 years to join one!

ds - I am crossing my fingers that it works out. They've been meeting for quite awhile, so it seems they have durability!

Kathy - I'm really looking forward to many more great discussions!

Michele - I would give my eyetooth to have your two cents in there! I am posting on the Rebecca readalong tomorrow...it starts October 1st. I'm working on my discussion questions as I speak!

savidgereads said...

So, so pleased that you found a delightful book group, its definately wonderful when you find a great one.

Interesting hearing your thoughts and the groups thoughts. You must blog more about the group soon.

Carrie K. said...

Sounds like a great book group! I wish I could find something like that in my little town.

The Bumbles said...

Jealous. Not that you have read this and I haven't, but that you found a face to face book group! Although you described this as a "lite" version of topics addressed in two of my favorite other books, sometimes I think book club selections are best when they get that discussion going. The approach to the topic of race here brought your group to a different side of the matter and I can see how it would have just sparked great conversation. (Oh - and tell me Denzel was on that naked list. If not you should leave that group immediately!)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Simon - well, I'm not sure our group can match the awesomeness of the one you are in. Still, I've always wanted to do this. With each meeting, I should be able to learn the group dynamics.

Carrie - hmmm...maybe you can start one? You would be perfect!

Bumbles - unfortunately, no, Denzel was not the topic of conversation. It was some guy that a few of these girls had worked with. Seemed like he might have been Denzel-ish. And what I wouldn't give to have you in my group too!

Staci said...

I enjoyed this story too but I found the idea that the child looked African-American just a bit hard to swallow...I would love to be a part of a book club like that!

Amy said...

I'm glad you have found a good book club and read a book that resulted in some interesting discussion. Hopefully next time it will be a book you like more. I read a book by Delinsky many years ago. Don't recall liking it much...maybe that's why I never read another?!

Amy said...

Lucky you for finding a book club!!! Even if the book stinks it's always nice to have friends to discuss with!

Susan said...

I used to read Barbara Delinsky way back in the late 70's when she was writing for Harlequin Romances. Yes, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was hooked on them for a while. Thank goodness, that phase of my life is over!

When do you get to pick the book?


my veri word is: caving LOL

Ingrid King said...

I usually enjoy Barbara Delinsky's books, but I felt that this one fell a bit short. While the story was fascinating, I just could not really like any of the characters. For me, it was one of those books that I kept on reading, hoping I was going to like it more as I got deeper into it, but that never quite happened.

Anna said...

Sounds like you found yourself a great club and an interesting book. Not sure about our club anymore, since the only member that wasn't our husbands just dropped out. UGH

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric