Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye
Age Range: Young Teens+
Genres: Coping with
Natalie, at 17, is about to go to college. She decides it's time for her to find her real mother and father who put her up for private adoption at birth. Her parents, as a graduation present, give her the resources (money, a car) to pursue this quest over the course of the summer, and the little information they possess about her natural parents.She follows up all the clues she can, discovering that she was born to an unmarried 15-year-old whose boyfriend died soon after. Her mother is a well-to-do model, and they eventually meet in New York with no very profound consequences.
A book which surprised me pleasantly. I had prejudiciously expected a combination of American heart-rending and sordid biographies. While the book is unmistakeably American, this is no more than the natural setting for the characters. Of the Dramatis Personae, the principals are Natalie Armstrong, the successful and pretty 17-year-old who goes in search of her natural parents while continuing to love her step-parents; Nancy, her 16-year-old half sister, natural child of her step-parents, and with whom she gets on very well; Dr & Mrs Armstrong, a loving couple who give their daughter the wherewithal to go and look for her parents while not really understanding why she has to; Tallie Chandler, Mrs Armstrong's artist mother who lives alone on an island and who is full of practical wisdom and art. The more peripheral roles include Paul, Natalie's boyfriend, who doesn't really understand her quest but who remains faithful to her; Ann Talbot, a housewife in the little village where Natalie was born; the Doctor who delivered her and who is dying in the same village; finally, her mother, now a successful model. There is a certain amount of the heart-on-the-sleeve stuff which Americans indulge in and which I find embarrassing, but it's a joy to find a book where someone is setting out not through sorrow or bitterness, but for a natural reason, and not wanting to hurt those she loves.
Tuesday 1st January 2002