Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

July 7, 2008
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Somebody Else's Daughter
Elizabeth Brundage

Viking
7-07-08
Hardcover/341 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670019007
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"Preppies, wealth, sex and scandal in the Berkshires."

Somebody Else’s Daughter: Preppies, wealth, sex and scandal in the Berkshires.

Cat is an addict with AIDS. She is dying, but she wants to make sure her daughter has a better life. She and Nate drive from San Francisco to the Berkshires with their daughter, Willa, to see the people who want to adopt her to make sure they will love and protect Willa. Cat dies in their driveway while sitting in the car, and Nate waits in the rain until the coroner comes while Willa is safe inside with her new parents.

Sixteen years later, Nate Gallagher has kicked his heroin habit. He has gone back to school to finish his degree to become a teacher and writer, struggling with his first novel about Cat and their life together. He has a new job as an English teacher at Pioneer School in the Berkshires where Willa is now a Junior. Nate wants to see his daughter to make sure he made the right choice.

Claire Squires is a sculptor, and she and her son Teddy have returned to the Berkshires because her father is dying and wants her to have his house and money. Because Claire’s father built the new gymnasium at Pioneer, Teddy is admitted despite his ADD and dyslexia.

Unlike Willa, whose parents are wealthy, Teddy has had to struggle most of his life while his mother worked and earned enough to keep a roof over their heads and buy the things she needs for sculpting. Teddy falls for Willa, but their teenage romance becomes even more complicated than they can imagine as secrets and lies that swirl around them in the idyllic surroundings of the Berkshires and at Pioneer begin to surface.

Wealth and privilege and the beauty of the Berkshire mountains provide the cloistered background in which Elizabeth Brundage sets Somebody Else’s Daughter. The perfect, shining image of the Pioneer prep school serves as a microcosm in which academic and social relationships are played out in miniature, mirroring the whirls and eddies of the adult world. From the beginning of the story, where Nate relates his life with Cat and their addiction to drugs and how Willa changed them, I was hooked.

It is mainly the women who take center stage in Somebody Else’s Daughter, although the men get a few moments in the spotlight to speak their peace. What begins as Nate’s story is in essence a thought provoking social commentary where the seven deadly sins are showcased and given form and voice in a new way while old ideas are re-examined. Brundage doesn’t step onto a soap box to deliver her views nor does she preach. Instead she has created a believable scenario with interesting multi-dimensional characters that holds a mirror up to modern morality and societal expectations.

Somebody Else’s Daughter is a compelling and richly textured book with complex characters. Set in the fascinating and rarefied world of wealth and privilege, nothing is as it seems, and everything is worth seeing.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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