Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family—the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?
My initial reaction to this book is to love it. I loved the idea, the characters, and the past/present structure. I loved the audiobook narration and pacing. I loved that it was able to make me tear up. The only thing I didn’t really like was that I was able to guess at the ending and the big secret from fairly early on. That didn’t bother me as much as it would have in a thriller, though, and the beauty of this story is in its telling.
Molly’s relationship with her father was really the star of the book for me. Even though she felt like she was growing up faster than her parents wanted to let her, she reverted to the innocent teenager her father wanted her to be when she was with him. I loved that she had such a good relationship with him and that she put his needs ahead of her own.
I’ve never read much about adoption or open adoption, and I didn’t realize how open some adoptions really were until reading this (because I assume that this kind of thing does happen, and it’s not just a figment of the author’s imagination). On the one hand, I can see how it would be great for the child and possibly for both families, but I really felt bad for Norah. Molly loved Amalia so much because she was able to be fun without having to parent, and Norah never had a chance against her. I wish Molly had understood her mother better when she was younger and had given her a shot.
I hated some of Molly’s choices as a teenager, and I hated that she alienated herself from her family as an adult, but I was ultimately pleased with the resolution and I enjoyed seeing her character’s growth from the past through the present.
I rated this book four stars because I really loved it, but it was a little predictable for me. I’d recommend giving it a try if you’re into Diane Chamberlain or if you like contemporary fiction that’s part coming of age and part drama. It’s also light enough to read poolside or at the beach (if you can brave the heat).