Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: Family Tree

Summary: When a white couple gives birth to a baby with distinctly black features, a family is thrown into turmoil. Hugh Clarke, born into a pedigreed New England family that can trace its roots to the Mayflower, devotes his professional life to championing minorities but is blindsided by his daughter's color. He urges his wife Dana, whose heritage is unknown, to start digging for answers. Dana adores her baby and resents her husband's demands. Unearthing her family's past raises issues for her that go well beyond that of her daughter's racial mix.

Hugh's father, Eaton Clarke, a renowned writer, anxiously awaits the results of Dana's search. Eaton is weeks away from releasing a book based on his well-documented family tree, and will be discredited as an historian if the very foundation of his book is undermined. To make matters worse, his wife, Dorothy, is taking an uncharacteristically independent stand with regard to their newest granddaughter.

Family Tree delves into issues of trust, honesty, privilege, and identity. It debates the way we define ourselves, and explores the duplicity of political correctness and personal prejudice. --

I was very excited when a member of my book club scored an author chat with Barbara Delinsky, author of FAMILY TREE. (I'll be posting about the author chat later this week.) I thought I'd wait until the last minute to read this book so I'd be fresh for our discussion with Ms. Delinsksy, but then I found myself not reading it quite as quickly as I had intended. While I enjoyed FAMILY TREE, I didn't love it; and I actually liked a more recent book THE SECRET BETWEEN US better. I thought the premise of the book sounded wonderful, but for some reason the book didn't live up to my expectations -- maybe I was just expecting too much.

There was a lot going on in the book with all of the various subplots. I didn't quite understand the reasoning for having so many sub-plots, especially the one with Dana's grandmother and her husband's death. It seemed to me as if some of the stories could eventually be entire books of their own. I also found the ending of the book kind of predictable. I knew (as did many of my book club friends) from the first few pages of the book where the baby's African American blood came from.

What I did really enjoy about this book was Dana and her grandmother's interest in knitting. I read on Barbara Delinsky's website that she also has a passion for knitting that developed as a child. I just love the idea of escaping to a local knitting store for therapy (meeting with good friends and gaining an overall peace of mind.) I think it's wonderful that Ms. Delinksy has designed a Family Tree Collection with Berroco yarns; and I look forward to seeing the patterns named after the characters in the book.

I don't want to come across as not enjoying this book because I did -- I just didn't love it. Having said that I do think it will make a very good discussion book for a book club. There are a lot of controversial issues that might generate some very interesting discussion; and there is also a reading group guide to help steer you in the right direction. FAMILY TREE is coming out in mass market paperback on June 24th, so you will soon be seeing it everywhere. I'm sure it will be discounted from the $7.99 price at the wholesale clubs as well as some major retailers. That actually makes it a great bargain for an enjoyable summer read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this a while back and I really enjoyed it. I thought it really looked at an important issue with a fresh prospective.

I look forward to hearing about hour author chat. I like Barbara Delinsky as an author