Jacquelyn Mitchard's first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, launched the Oprah's Book Club and riveted millions of readers across the country. Now comes A Theory of Relativity, Mitchard's most compelling and beautifully written novel yet. At twenty-four, Gordon McKenna thinks he's already heard the worst news of his life when he learns that his sister Georgia is fatally ill. Then Georgia and her husband die in a car accident, leaving behind their baby daughter, Keefer. Gordon and his parents are able to survive their sorrow only by devoting themselves to the care of the beloved one-year-old. But the decision of who will raise Keefer is far from over, and soon Gordon's most basic assumptions about his family will be challenged in ways so provocative that he will be driven to disbelief and then to outrage. The ordeal will test the bonds of this closely knit family, challenging even love's ultimate capacity to heal. Performed by Juliette Parker
Gordon McKenna is a handsome 24-year-old science teacher who thought life was as tough as it could get when his only sister, Georgia, was diagnosed with cancer. Then she and her husband die in a car crash, leaving behind their one-year-old daughter, Keefer. Gordon willingly gives up his self-involved bachelor life and adopts his beloved niece. Georgia's in-laws, however, have different wishes for their granddaughter. Well heeled, conservative and wealthy, they believe their born-again Christian niece and her husband should get custody of the child. Their challenge to Gordon's custody lies in the fact that both he and Georgia were adopted children, with "only" love, not blood, connecting Gordon and Keefer. Thus begins the custody battle which makes up the bulk of this book. Mitchard is known for her bestseller, The Deep End of the Ocean (Oprah's very first book pick, back in Sept. '96), as well as for her nationally syndicated newspaper column about family life. As a widowed mother of five adopted children who was once part of a custody suit, Mitchard is an expert on how even the most loving and functional households can be thrown into turmoil and chaos without warning. She writes with grace and authority, and Juliette Parker's gentle and even reading of the text gives a slightly upbeat feel to this suspenseful and emotional tale that challenges the legal definition of "family." Simultaneous release with HarperCollins hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 23). (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 30, 2002
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Excerpt from A Theory of Relativity by Jacquelyn Mitchard
They died instantly.
Or close enough.
Gordon, of course, knew that "instantly," in this context, didn't mean what it seemed to suggest: Several minutes would have passed inside the car after the impact, while the final tick and swoosh of Ray's and Georgia's heart-sent blood swept a pointless circuit, while muscles contracted loyally at the behest of a last volley of neurological commands. But there would have been no awareness, or only a few twilight seconds -- and no memory.
Most of the others in Tall Trees, the McKenna family and their friends, didn't know as much about the biology involved or care to. Small town people, they were accustomed to having something to be grateful for, even death no more physically complex than a power failure. It seemed to many a source of comfort. And as the months unfurled, comfort of any sort was in short supply.
Even Gordon had to admit he was relieved. Couldn't it have been worse, much, much worse?
It could have been. This, Gordon decided, in those few breathless, shocky moments as he prepared to leave his school classroom and drive to the scene of the accident at Lost Tribe Creek, would be his mantra. He would not yowl and quake at this abrupt conclusion to the year of living catastrophically. He would not let himself come unglued. Dread tapped at his gut, like an unwelcome salesman tapping insistently at the window -- Your sister is dead; your sister really is dead! But Gordon breathed in and out, spoke to himself of focus.
He would be the one who remained analytical. Looking at the facts straight on was both his nature and his calling. He could do that best of anyone in his family. It would be the way he would protect himself and his parents.
He was, of course, frightened. All the signs. The trembling legs. The fluttering pulse. It had begun the moment he heard Sheriff Larsen's voice.