Family Album
by Patricia Kay, contemporary (2002)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-18632-6


I'm afraid I don't really understand the way the main characters think in this book. As a result, I'm more of a disinterested spectator in Family Album than an engaged reader. On her 18th birthday, Hannah Ferris gave birth to a son and passed him on to social services so that he would be adopted. Now, twenty years later, she is married for 15 years to a great hubby, Simon, and she has a great daughter, Jenny. What happens then when David, her now 20-year old son, comes back into her life?

Here's the thing: if I gave up my kid for adoption when I was 18, desperate, and definitely unable to support my kid, I don't think that's a reason to spend my entire life wringing my hands and hanging my head in eternal misery as angels weep blood and whisper condemnation in my ears or something, and certainly this is not some scarlet A branded on my forehead that I must hide it from my family like an STD or something. Whatever Hannah did at that time, it doesn't involve Simon or Jenny that Simon and Jenny should take it like some personal betrayal.

So the whole nonsense Hannah goes through, to the point of trying to drive away David, just make me shake my head. What a stupid woman. Jenny has a crush on David. Ooh, Flowers In The Attic, I think, perking up a little. Hannah seems to be on the verge on a nervous breakdown that will probably drive her to locking Jenny and David in the attic forever or something. But alas, in the end, these young kids are able to turn off their hormonal attraction once their blood ties are revealed, although David calls Jenny one sexy sister in the epilogue. Maybe there's hope for some attic action in this clan after all.

That's the thing. I don't understand the characters in this story, so I don't really get into this story. Maybe if you believe that adoption is the greatest sin a woman can bring herself to do, and a kid sent for adoption - even if it means that he'll get a chance at a life you can't provide - is a cross one must bear for life, you may appreciate Hannah's dilemma better. Of course, David doesn't have a good life until he reunites with his mother in the happy ending, but this is more of a bearing on the author's views on single mothers giving up their kids for adoption. I just believe that sometimes life isn't that black and white, but we women have to do what's best at times, even if "best" doesn't seem to be the nicest, prettiest, or acceptable thing at that time.

I can't help but to think of LaVyrle Spencer's book, Home Song. It has a pretty similar premise, only this time it's the father who hides the secret. And the kid was a result of a bachelor party fling. I can see why he would want to keep that secret from his family.

But as for Family Album, well, I don't get it. If anything, it only reaffirms my beliefs that sometimes a woman has to do some unpleasant things to survive, and if anything, she has the right to put her foot down and refuse to be judged for that. Men can get away with this for a long time now - rakes in romance novels, anyone? - so maybe it's time we women catch up in romance novels.

I'm almost afraid to read Patricia Kay's story involving a theme like, say, abortion.

Rating: 66


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