Family Tree — Review by Chris

The premise of this Barbara Delinsky book was intriguing: a white couple, Dana and Hugh, have a black baby. Hugh's Boston Brahmin family is traced back to the Mayflower and Dana doesn't even know who her father is. How does the new family, the extended family and community react? Most importantly, whose "fault" is it?

Well, I wouldn't bother finding out, if I were you. This banal and superficial book doesn't even skate over the surface of the subject.

Oh, and toss in the white senator fathering a child with a black waitress, the black neighbor with a white ex-wife and child, the grandmother with a secret thrust into the reader's field of vision way too early in the story, Dana's dead mother, a snooty woman who has her own issues and a black nurse who suddenly takes an interest in Dana's child....

And none of them has a true emotion, nor do they hold conversations that ring with any honesty. No one gets mad enough about anything. Worst of all, everything is all resolved, happily or not, in the time most sitcoms take for resolution.

Case in point: Hugh treats his newborn daughter with less affection than he would treat a stranger he meets on the street. Dana isn't mad enough at her husband's actions — instead, she's trying to "get back" to how they were before the baby came, rather than taking him to task for treating their daughter like crap. I don't honestly believe a woman who is supposed to have weathered the ill will of her in-laws with an apparently steely determination would have put up with her husband's behavior. We won't even get into his accusations and solutions to his issues.

In all honesty, I can see how the husband might be worried that his wife cheated on him, and I can see why he would distance himself from his wife and child until the matter is resolved. It's the way Dana acted that annoyed me. I wanted her to champion her child, rather than just suffer his pettiness and cruelty until he was satisfied with his information.

I finished the book because I was curious about who contributed to baby Lizzie's appearance. But even then, I wasn't satisfied with what Delinsky gave readers. I expected something less puzzling; I wonder exactly what the author learned from geneticists about racial characteristics being passed through the generations because she didn't share enough of it here.

Some characters should have been wearing neon signs that read, "Look at me: I obviously will be important later, because I'm too weirdly placed in this story to make sense right now and no editor worth her salt would leave me in unless I served a purpose!"

The ending was very unrewarding. I expected some sort of firm resolution, and I got ambiguity. Central characters did not come to terms with the elements of the story, and others "salvaged" their characters too little, too late. (Maybe I'm just mean and unforgiving.)

I wanted Fluff 'n Trash™, but what I got was pablum. No spice, no interest, no palatable intrigue. Not even a satisfactory resolution. Can you suggest something better Fluff 'n Trash™? Please do!

1 comment:

Carole said...

Don't you hate that? You want a good piece of Fluff'n Trash, and you just don't get what you want. I just had a similar experience with Elizabeth Lowell's Tell Me No Lies. I wanted a good suspense/action novel, and the premise was interesting, but the characterizations were SO annoying and the rationalizations for the characters' actions were so sketchy that I nearly set it down and didn't finish it. I slogged through, but I wonder why I bothered. Anyone want to recommend some good Fluff'n Trash?