An incredibly moving novel about the emotional side--and consequesces--of open adoption from the author of Coming Back To Me.
Leavitt's uneven but earnest eighth novel examines the emotional price a bright Massachusetts teen pays when she chooses "open" adoption for a baby she gives birth to at 16. It's 1987, and smart Sara Rothman has fallen in love with "black sheep" Danny Slade. When he vanishes after learning she's pregnant, Sara gives the baby up. Leavitt (Coming Back to Me) poignantly depicts the consequences of that choice for everyone concerned: Sara, who misses her baby and Danny both; Abby and Jack, Sara's well-meaning parents; Danny, the young father; George and Eva Rivers, the attentive but naive adoptive couple; and Anne, the child. At first, Sara visits the Riverses daily-she loves Anne, and the Riverses had cared for her while she was pregnant. But her presence becomes intrusive, and eventually, Eva takes a stand: "We adopted Anne," she tells Sara. "We didn't adopt you." Sara then makes a desperate attempt to steal the infant, and when she's found, the Riverses move and deny Sara visiting rights ("Open adoptions are only enforceable in Oregon," a lawyer tells her). Fifteen years pass, and Leavitt's focus wavers; a fuzzy reunion between Danny and Sara is particularly unconvincing. The novel's portrait of dreamy, adolescent Anne and her relationship with the older Riverses is sharper, as is the realistic, bumpy reunion of birth mother and daughter. An unflinching depiction of maternal need and the dynamics of adoption, this tale is a sharp reminder of the importance of honesty in life decisions. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt
Sara's pains are coming ten minutes apart now. Every time one comes, she jolts herself against the side of the car, trying to disappear. Everything outside is whizzing past her from the car window because Jack, her father, is speeding, something she's never seen him do before. Sara grips the armrest, her knuckles white. She presses her back against the seat and digs her feet into the floor, as if any moment she will fly from the car. Stop, she wants to say. Slow down. Stop. But she can't form the words, can't make her mouth work properly. Can't do anything except wait in terror for the next pain. Jack hunches over the wheel, beeping his horn though there isn't much traffic. His face is reflected in the rearview mirror, but he doesn't look at her. Instead, he can't seem to keep himself from looking at Abby, Sara's mother, who is sitting in the back with Sara. His face is unreadable. He keeps pushing back his hair, thick and brown, dimmed with grey. He punches the radio dial from station to station, smearing the sound.
"Jack, for God's sake," says Abby. "Just pick a station." Abby hands Sara a hard lemon candy to suck on. She rubs Sara's shoulders, helps her wedge the pink rubber ball into the small of her back to press against the pain. The dress Sara's been living in for months, a blue denim that's two sizes bigger than the one she used to wear, soft from many washings, is soaked with sweat, pasted to her. Her hair snarls to her shoulders, the same rust red as her mother's short, styled cut, only hers is damp, frizzy with curls. No matter how frosty the car gets, Sara can't stop sweating.
"Nineteen eighty-seven and it's the worst heat wave in Boston in fifty years!" the radio announcer says. He keeps saying his name, which is Wild Bill, and every time he says it, he laughs, and the laughter gets under Sara's skin, crawling like some sort of insect. "We've never seen a July like this one!" He's got a crackling, gleeful voice that pops and snaps as if it were carbonated. "Keep inside, keep cool, keep tuned in. There's a health hazard warning for elderly and pregnant women." Sara feels a small shock of recognition, as if the announcer were talking directly to her, but Abby keeps rubbing her bare shoulders as if she hasn't heard anything, and Jack purposefully zips into another lane. Abby's face is coated with sweat. Perspiration beads on Jack's neck. "Two people have died already," Wild Bill says and Sara thinks, amazed, I'm dying, too. He talks about drought and blackouts and crime waves because people are going crazy from the heat. No one can be counted on to behave reasonably. An elderly woman was found by a neighbor, panting on her floor by her open refrigerator. A white teacup poodle has nearly suffocated in a car left in a parking lot, but was revived when his desperate owner gave him mouth to mouth. "Even Wild Bill isn't wild enough to do that!" Wild Bill says.
Sara swears his voice is growing louder and bigger, crowding out all the room in the car, all the air, and she can't stand listening to it another moment and she's about to say so when another pain grabs at her and instead she cries out.