Dana Clarke has always longed for the stability of home and family--her own childhood was not an easy one. Now she has married a man she adores who is from a prominent New England family, and she is about to give birth to their first child. But what should be the happiest day of her life becomes the day her world falls apart. Her daughter is born beautiful and healthy, but no one can help noticing the African American traits in her appearance. Dana's husband, to her great shock and dismay, begins to worry that people will think Dana has had an affair.
The only way to repair the damage done is for Dana to track down the father she never knew and to explore the possibility of African American lineage in his family history. Dana's determination to discover the truth becomes a poignant journey back through her past and her husband's heritage that unearths secrets rooted in prejudice and fear. Barbara Delinsky's Family Tree is an utterly unforgettable novel that asks penetrating questions about race, family, and the choices people make in times of crisis--choices that have profound consequences that can last for generations.
When Dana and Hugh Clarke's baby is born into their wealthy, white New England seaside community, the baby's unmistakably African-American features puzzle her thoroughly Anglo-looking parents. Hugh's family pedigree extends back to the Mayflower, and his historian father has made a career of tracing the esteemed Clarke family genealogy, which does not include African-Americans. Dana's mother died when Dana was a child, and Dana never knew her father: she matter-of-factly figures that baby Lizzie's features must hark back to her little-known past. Hugh, a lawyer who has always passionately defended his minority clients, finds his liberal beliefs don't run very deep and demands a paternity test to rule out the possibility of infidelity. By the time the Clarkes have uncovered the tangled roots of their family trees, more than one skeleton has been unearthed, and the couple's relationship-not to mention their family loyalty-has been severely tested. Delinsky (Looking for Peyton Place) smoothly challenges characters and readers alike to confront their hidden hypocrisies. Although the dialogue about race at times seems staged and rarely delves beyond a surface level, and although near-perfect Dana and her knitting circle are too idealized to be believable, Delinsky gets the political and personal dynamics right. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 06, 2007
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Excerpt from Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
Something woke her mid-dream. She didn't know whether it was the baby kicking, a gust of sea air tumbling in over the sill, surf breaking on the rocks, or even her mother's voice, liquid in the waves, but as she lay there open-eyed in bed in the dark, the dream remained vivid. It was an old dream, and no less embarrassing to her for knowing the script. She was out in public, for all the world to see, lacking a vital piece of clothing. In this instance, it was her blouse. She had left home without it and now stood on the steps of her high school--her high school--wearing only a bra, and an old one at that. It didn't matter that she was sixteen years past graduation and knew none of the people on the steps. She was exposed and thoroughly mortified. And then--this was a first--there was her mother-in-law, standing off to the side, wearing a look of dismay and carrying--bizarre--the blouse.
Dana might have laughed at the absurdity of it, if, at that very moment, something else hadn't diverted her thoughts. It was the sudden rush of fluid between her legs, like nothing she had ever felt before.
Afraid to move, she whispered her husband's name. When he didn't reply, she reached out, shook his arm, and said in full voice, "Hugh?"
He managed a gut-low "Mm?"
"We have to get up."
She felt him turn and stretch.
"My water just broke."
He sat up with a start. Leaning over her, his deep voice higher than normal, he asked, "Are you sure?"
"It keeps coming. But I'm not due for two weeks."
"That's okay," he reassured her, "that's okay. The baby is seven-plus pounds--right in the middle of the full-term range. What time is it?"
"Don't move. I'll get towels." He rolled away and off the bed.
She obeyed him, partly because Hugh had studied every aspect of childbirth and knew what to do, and partly to avoid spreading the mess. As soon as he returned, though, she supported her belly and pushed herself up. Squinting against the sudden light of the lamp, she took one of the towels, slipped it between her legs, and shuffled into the bathroom.
Hugh appeared seconds later, wide-eyed and pale in the vanity lights. "What do you see?" he asked.
"No blood. But it's definitely the baby and not me."
"Do you feel anything?"
"Like terror?" She was dead serious. As prepared as they were--they had read dozens of books, talked with innumerable friends, grilled the doctor and her partners and her nurse-practitioner and the hospital personnel during a pre-admission tour--the reality of the moment was something else. With childbirth suddenly and irrevocably imminent, Dana was scared.
"Like contractions," Hugh replied dryly.
"No. Just a funny feeling. Maybe a vague tightening."
"What does 'vague' mean?"
"Is it a contraction?"
"I don't know."
"Does it come and go?"
"I don't know, Hugh. Really. I just woke up and then there was a gush--" She broke off, feeling something. "A cramp." She held her breath, let it out, met his eyes. "Very mild."
"Cramp or contraction?"
"Contraction," she decided, starting to tremble. They had waited so long for this. They were as ready as they would ever be.
"Are you okay while I call the doctor?" he asked.
She nodded, knowing that if she hadn't he would have brought the phone into the bathroom. But she wasn't helpless. As doting as Hugh had been lately, she was an independent sort, and by design. She knew what it was to be wholly dependent on someone and then have her taken away. It didn't get much worse.
So, while he phoned the doctor, she fit her big belly into her newest, largest warm-up suit, now lined with a pad from her post-delivery stash to catch amniotic fluid that continued to leak, and went down the hall to the baby's room. She had barely turned on the light when he called.