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Somebody Else’s Daughter review

September 23, 2008

Publisher’s Description:

A psychological thriller of secrets, dark motives, and an        adoption buried in the past.

At the center of Elizabeth Brundage’s new novel lies an adoption under stressed and tragic circumstances. Willa, brought up in elegant prosperity, is now a student at the prestigious Pioneer School. But her biological father, a failing writer and former drug addict, can’t live with himself without seeing her again.

In this idyllic Berkshires landscape, Willa’s adoptive parents have fled a mysterious past; a feminist sculptor initiates a reckless affair; teenagers live in a world to which adults turn a blind eye; and the headmaster’s wife is busy keeping her husband’s disastrous history and current indiscretions well hidden. The culmination of these forces is the collision of two very different fathers—biological and adoptive—and a villain whose ends and means slowly unfold with the help, witting and unwitting, of all around him. Somebody Else’s Daughter delivers an electric, suspenseful tale of richly conflicted characters and the disturbed landscape of the American psyche.

Review and Grade: B-

This story is all about the characters in every sense. To describe them as compelling does not quite do it justice. Short chapters are pieced together so that every main character gets to tell the story from their point of view as it unfolds. Although complicated and admittedly risky, the plot does not get muddled in the process and each character develops with incredible clarity as the reader gets to see how they appear to their community and how they appear to themselves (often with a very wide disparity).

As far as psychological thrillers go, this book was excellent. I probably went in with the wrong expectations because while the characters and their inward and outward struggles are almost disturbingly realistic, the plot itself twists and turns in ways that had brought me out of Brundage’s world thinking to myself, “But what are the odds of that?” or “that wouldn’t really happen.” The incredible realism of the characters was too starkly contrasted against some of the outlandish events that took place. I think that had some of the plot events been toned down a bit, made to be more realistic, the overall book would have been incredibly powerful. Instead, the two aspects just cancelled each other out.

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