Sunday, August 24, 2008

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

It's fun to read a book by friend. It can be a slight problem if you don't like the book, but if the book really grabs your attention, then it's a wonderful feeling. That's the case with Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage, a friend from my first experience at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. This is her second novel, and it opens with a letter, by way of a prologue, written in 1989 by a drug-addicted father who is giving up his newborn daughter for adoption. The story jumps forward sixteen years, and we anticipate seeing the daughter again in her adoptive family. Here is the synopsis/teaser from Elizabeth's website:
In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa—now a teenager and one of Nate's students—lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women's shelter, her friendship with a troubled prostitute raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parent's love and care, Willa can't shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness.

Readers can see from this brief summary that conflict abounds. Not only is there the tension of wondering when and how Will will learn that Nate is her father, but there is plenty going on in the lives of Joe and Candace that creates tension as well, not to mention Jack and Maggie, who are teachers at the same school. It's a gripping story that straddles the literary and psychological thriller genres, and is told compellingly in multiple points of view. Not only do we get Joe and Candace's take on things, but Willa's, JacK and Maggie's, Nates, and also that of Claire and Teddy, newcomers to the area who also become part of the story.

I don't know if Elizabeth has sold the movie rights yet, but I can definitely see this on film. It's a very enjoyable read.

2 comments:

Maryanne Stahl said...

sounds like a book I'd enjoy. but, oddly, I am at work on something similar--the story of a woman who gave up her daughter and their meeting, 16 years later. there are many other differences, but...should I read your friend's book? would you?

Clifford Garstang said...

I don't know that it would hurt, because they do sound different. But the influence might be subtle and you're probably better off waiting, to be honest. The possible meeting of father and daughter creates a fair amount of tension in the book, as you might expect, although in retrospect it's almost beside the point.