Barbara Delinsky's "Family Tree" creates a memorable story full of complex and fascinating family dynamics

by nblman@evpl on Thursday, February 19 2009, 3:00pm. Viewed 779 times.

Delinsky's novel explores how a white, upper-middle-class New England couple reacts when the wife gives birth to an African-American baby.  The Clarkes are bastions of New England tradition and pride, tracing their family through significant events of American history all the way back to the Mayflower.  Eaton Clarke, the grandfather, in particular has set himself up as an archtypical American through a series of well-received, bestselling historical narratives he has written.  The latest installment is about to be published when an unusual event occurs:  Little Elizabeth Ames Clarke, his new grandaughter, is born with distinctive African American features, to son Hugh and his wife Dana.  Like the mushroom wave of an atomic bomb, the story moves forward in the lives of Dana, who never knew her father, but now feels compelled to find him; Hugh the husband and lawyer who relentlessly pushes for the truth in order to learn whether the child is his; Ellie Jo, Dana's grandmother, who carries a secret that threatens her health; Eaton, the arrogant father of Hugh, who denies the grandchild is legitimate, refusing to confront the truth about himself and his past; Dorothy, Eaton's wife who lives in his shadow but moves out into the light as secrets of the past explode into the present.  Minor characters are not spared upheaval in this thoroughly believable, unforgettable novel that asks penetrating questions about race, family and the choices that people make in times of crisis--perfect reading for February, Black History Month.

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