Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

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Diane Chamberlain is the USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 24 novels. Influenced by her former career as a social worker and psychotherapist, she writes suspenseful stories that touch both heart and mind.

Diane Chamberlain has done it again! Her newest novel, Pretending to Dance, is a tale of the many lies and deep deception that form the backbone of relationships in the lives of Molly Arnette and her family of origin. Her past issues are unresolved so they affect the present.

From the book’s opening line, “I’m a good liar,” the reader is drawn into the lives of Molly and her husband, Aidan, who are childless and going through the adoption process. Told from Molly’s perspective, the story goes back and forth from the present day to the summer when she was 14 years old, the last time she spent with her father.

When she was growing up, Molly’s family appeared close, loving and lived near to each other on their land called Morrison Ridge in North Carolina. She never imagined living anywhere else, let alone moving across the country to California. But that’s exactly what she did as soon as she turned 18. Her father, Graham, is a moderately successful therapist who suffers from the ever-increasing cruelties of multiple sclerosis. Her adopted mother, Nora, is a pharmacist who works hard and serves as her dad’s caretaker. Home health aide Russell provides an outsider’s perspective to the story line from time to time while attending to Graham’s needs.

Added to the mix is Molly’s biological mother, a colorful character named Amalia who lives in the family’s former slave quarters. Teenage Molly never seems to question this arrangement until she befriends a new girl from school, Stacy. One thing leads to another, and her summer becomes an adventure of self-discovery, transitioning from the innocence of childhood to the confusion of the teen years. Through rebellious and unsupervised Stacy, Molly meets her first real crush and tastes forbidden freedom in the form of 17-year-old Chris Turner.

“I felt a shiver and had that feeling I always got when I spoke to Stacy. That strange, enticed, and a little bit jealous feeling. She lived in a different sort of world than I did. A freer world. I wanted some of that freedom.” At one point in the novel, the writer’s words will help every reader recall their first romance. While Molly straddles the end of girlhood with the emergence of young adulthood, family strife and turmoil take hold.

Her Uncle Trevor is trying to convince family members to sell numerous acres of their land to developers. Her father appears depressed even while his career continues to thrive with the publication of his latest self-help book. Molly is determined to make the summer a happy one for her father, whom she is close with, but at times she pulls back in the normal reaction of a teen craving independence. Her overprotective mother seems distracted and harried. And free-spirited Amalia is not who she appears to be at first glance. Molly’s grandmother, Nanny, and the supporting cast of family members in Uncle Jim, Aunt Claudia, Aunt Toni and even her cousin, Danielle, are not as uncomplicated as the plot unfolds.
Diane Chamberlain proves once again why she is a best-selling author as she weaves a touching tale that flows seamlessly back and forth through time. The intricacies of the adoption process are revealed through 38-year-old Molly’s eyes and heart. She worries that she will not be a good mother, that she will not love her adopted child enough. Further complicating matters, Molly never told her husband or the adoption agency personnel the truth about the woman who raised her or the shocking secret she carries deep inside her psyche. Compounding the typical problems adoptive parents face, Molly and her patient husband endure heartache and uncertainty in their quest to adopt a baby.

“I check the screen on my cell phone for the fifth time. It’s nearly twelve-thirty. Sienna had told us she’d meet us at noon. We’re not off to a good start with this girl.” And so begins the couple’s rocky relationship with Sienna, a 17-year-old unwed pregnant young woman who is about to give her unborn child up for adoption. Will she choose Molly and Aidan? Until the very end, readers will wonder if Sienna changes her mind about the whole thing! The interactions between Molly and Sienna are raw, genuine and moving as the book reveals what goes on behind modern adoptions.

Relevant themes, colorful characters and realistic dialogue make this story both believable and poignant. Plot twists will have readers wondering how the characters resolve their old disappointments, deep-seated anger and resounding pain.While you’ll need a box of tissues when reading some of this story, the ending is upbeat. For anyone who has ever wondered about their own family secrets, this writer explores the very essence of what family means. You’ll laugh and cry at the touching way Diane Chamberlain helps everyone realize there is no such thing as the perfect family! ■