Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When the pretending ends, the lying begins . . . Molly Arnette is good at keeping secrets. As she and her husband try to adopt a baby, she worries that the truth she's kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. Molly ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved. Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a healthy future, she discovers that even she doesn't know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.
This was the first novel by Diane Chamberlain I have read, it won't be my last.
Beautifully written it charts the life of teenager Molly Arnette her father Graham, mother Nora and their extended family all living in Morrison Ridge an idyllic 100 acre compound in Swannanoa in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
The story starts out in San Diego where Molly is grown up and an attorney, married to Aiden who is also a lawyer they are trying to adopt a baby after the loss of their own baby and Molly's hysterectomy. Molly is nervous of revealing her family history and over the course of the novel the reasons why start to fit together. Her husband Aiden does not know her past as she has never felt able to share this with him and he struggles to understand some of her fears over an adoption.
The novel switches from the grown up Molly narrating to the fourteen year old Molly as flashbacks reveal her past and her growing up in the 1990's. So, the scene is set and we see her grow up before our eyes as the story moves on.
We met fourteen year old Molly in the summer holidays and the only one of her 'friends' around is Stacy who she does not know very well but she invites for a sleepover. Stacy is everything that Molly is not and their friendship causes Molly to make some unwise choices that contribute to the feelings of guilt that haunt her after her father dies. Molly's relationship with her father is very strong and like most teenagers, even though her father has MS and is very ill, she believes he will always be around. His death therefore is a great shock to her and her belief that her mother Nora may have had a hand in it is more than she can bear.
Though Diane Chamberlains' skillful writing we experience a mixture of coming of age, highly charged emotional situations, difficult complex family relationships and the unconditional love of a father for his daughter. Her fourteenth year was to her the worst year of her life for many reasons and it takes her more than 20 years to reconcile her past and put her demons behind her before she can move on with her husband and begin a family of her own.
This was such a deeply moving book, I loved the gentle Graham her father who although he suffered greatly he never burdened anyone while he struggled to cope with his degenerative illness. Physically he had no movement other than being able to move his head and yet through the eloquent language and empathy of the writer I felt Graham could move mountains. His affect on those around him was astounding given his disabilities and somehow I was able to read this without pity for him but admiration. The author managed to make the reader feel that the lives of all the family were enriched by him - he was not a burden - that takes great skill as a writer.
I don't want to reveal anything about this book as it really has to be read and although it does tackle a physical disability it is also about great love, hope, growing up, secrets, mistakes and struggles in hearts and minds.
I really couldn't give this book any less than 5 stars for its' bewitching brilliant writing, its poignant messages and its' gentle journey of self discovery, heart wrenching loss and the freedom of forgiveness. Quite simply a beautiful memorable read.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.