By Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 10/6/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Top Books of 2015
Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can't have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly's past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison's Ridge.
Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father's death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?
About the Author
Diane Chamberlain is the USA Today and London Times bestselling author of 23 novels published in more than a dozen languages. Her complex stories combine intrigue and suspense with engrossing family drama. Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey. She also lived for many years in San Diego and northern Virginia before making North Carolina her home. Diane received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker and a psychotherapist in private practice, working primarily with adolescents.
Diane’s background in psychology and her work in hospitals have given her a keen interest in understanding the way people tick, as well as the background necessary to create living, breathing characters.
Diane lives with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole. She has three stepdaughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. She loves interacting with her readers through her blog, on Facebook and via speakerphone and Skype calls with bookclubs. She's currently at work on her next novel. Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Love the front cover.
E X T R A O R D I N A R Y !
Diane Chamberlain once again delivers a bittersweet, and compelling suspense page-turner, PRETENDING TO DANCE, hooking you from page one to the end. Landing on my Top Booklist of 2015, a complex exploration of family, lies, and dark secrets.
“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here, Let’s Dance!”
PRETENDING TO DANCE offers a mix of coming-of-age and humor of Judy Blume and Jennifer Weiner; the complexity and highly charged topics of Jodi Picoult and Amy Hatvany; the heartwarming emotions and social issues of Emilie Richards and Kristin Hannah; combined with Chamberlain’s own unique style and talent of creating mystery, intrigue, suspense, healing, and complex family relationships, written with compelling prose, which we have come to expect from the author’s older to her newer books--keeping fans engaged, returning, and anxiously awaiting her next.
In the prequel, THE DANCE BEGINS, set in the mountains of North Carolina in 1982, outside Asheville in Morrison Ridge Swannanoa, a family owned idyllic compound –one hundred acres. We are introduced to the Arnette family. Graham- father, Nora-mother, and six –year- old daughter, Molly and their extended family.
Graham, the father is a remarkable man, psychologist, and author, with MS- Multiple sclerosis. His wife, Nora is a successful pharmacist, and Molly is the light of her father’s eye. They all enjoy their life on their land, a haven; and a springhouse (a special hideaway playhouse) for Molly. In order to get to the Springhouse, they have to go up the Hill from Hell, a steep incline--and Graham’s aid, Russell a God-sent, always there to help out the family with their daily lives.
Even with his disabilities, Graham has a wonderful outlook on life. He believes in Pretend Therapy visualizing; Comfort found from the joy of literature, art, dancing, or singing, to get through any of life’s struggles. As close as he comes now to dancing is the zip line they rigged up for him- as he will never fly through the air or will never dance again. Molly loves her dad and lives to make his life as comfortable as possible--she is her father’s princess. She cannot imagine her life without him. He could lift her spirits, change the mood of a room, ease sorrow, erase fear, diffuse anger, and at times she thought of him as a magician.
In PRETENDING TO DANCE, we jump ahead to San Diego, CA where the story is focused on Molly, an attorney, (family law) where she is now a grown woman in her late thirties, married to Aidan— they are trying to adopt a baby, unable to have one of their own.
When the intense family history questions arise, and background checks, Molly withholds the truth about her past, and fears they will surface; they could destroy not only her marriage, but her chance at adoption. Throughout the interviewing process, she struggles with deciding between open and closed adoption –can she handle the biological mother’s involvement?
Molly has left her past behind. It is a mystery. Her husband knows nothing about her past or any of her family. She pretends they are all dead. She has secrets. She has had no communication with her family since she was eighteen, over twenty years ago, when leaving NC in her rear view mirror. She still has anger and rage thinking of her past. Will her past affect her decisions for the future? She is not forthcoming in her interviewing process about her family’s history. Yet she prides herself on honesty and communication skills.
Slowly, chapter by chapter, Chamberlain skillfully weaves her magic; peeling back the layers, as we flash back and forth, from Molly in NC living at home as a teen, at age fourteen in 1990, to the present day in San Diego. Her life is a mystery and at the opening of the book-- readers have no clue what happened back in NC to drive her away, and close the doors to the childhood she loved and cherished. (You will be glued to the pages dying to find out what happened). No spoilers here.
Molly will have to face her past and make peace in order to move on and embrace her future as a wife and mother, and the only remaining link is her cousin. Dani. With decisions to make in the present day, as she meets with the adoptive mother, the past and the present connect for an explosive discovery.
Fun, Fun! Readers get to experience an overly protective native young girl embarking on an adult world, from Judy Blume’s books (hilarious), loved reference to Forever ... a 1975 novel by Blume dealing with teenage sexuality (this age range will have some good laughs, reminded of those tumultuous teen years.)
From teen crushes, sneaking out, friends, fears, hair, clothes, makeup, image, peer pressure, concerts, pot, sex, boys, being caught in a trap, between childhood and adulthood, and an unconventional family--- all the while struggling with her father’s illness and taking the burden upon herself to protect him, pretending-- to ensure his happiness.
However, her family may be protecting her, with secrets of their own. A facade to mask what lies beneath in order to protect one another?
Loved the Highland Hospital Asheville NC (psychiatric facility/Zelda Fitzgerald) connection. Enjoyed Amalia’s bohemian free-spirted character; very different than Nora. As a NC native, always enjoy the settings, especially the mountain areas.
Molly has a strong connection with her father, more so than her mother. She assists him with typing, and accompanies him on his book tours - they share a special bond with books and music. She loves her father more than anything in the world; however, typical of any teen, she struggles with her own identity, desires freedom, and rebels against her parents’ strict rules. From her free spirited friend, Stacy (funny), to her hormones, with fantasies of Johnny Depp and New Kids on the Block, her life is a roller coaster.
From teen to adult to motherhood, from blame, secrets, lies, guilt, grief, denial; struggles, disabilities and betrayal; a painful past--the ties which bind and make a dysfunctional family real, raw, and emotional love “unalterably unique” -- with complications, tragedies, loss, and love --setting the stage in preparation for new beginnings!
Wow, this is a compelling "meant-to-be-read" in one sitting kinda book. I was busy with work, and had to steal precious moments; finding myself drawn, dying to get back to this suspenseful saga, and at the same time it is one you want to savor, like a piece of rich dark sweet chocolate.
Crossing several genres from contemporary, coming-of-age, humor, young adult, suspense, mystery, family drama---from the young, middle age, to the older crowd – men and women, alike will devour this one! Father-daughter fans will treasure the strong bond between these two, and the heartfelt letter you will laugh and cry at the same time. Keep the Kleenex handy.
A long-time devoted fan, having read all Diane’s books, and one of my favorite authors---each book is special and unique. Not one of them is like the other. An impossible task choosing a favorite.
A powerful journey, and an inspiring story. Fans will love the well-developed characters for a book you must read. only master storyteller Diane can tell. I also enjoyed the inspiration behind the book, and the connection with the author’s own family.
As mentioned previously, influenced by the author’s former career as a social worker and psychotherapist, she has keen insights reflective throughout the pages of her writing, with suspenseful stories that will touch your heart and mind. Buy both they will change you, with unique characters which linger, long after the book ends.
“It’s hard to move on if you don’t forgive. It’s like trying to dance with a lead weight on your shoulders. The anger can weigh you down forever.“
Buy the Book
THE DANCE BEGINS
By: Diane Chamberlain
Series: Dance .5
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 8/11/2015
Format: e-book (Novella)
My Rating: 5 Stars
In this short story prequel to Pretending to Dance, psychologist Graham Arnette longs to dance the way he used to, before illness stole his ability to walk. Graham lives on one hundred acres of family land with his daughter Molly and his wife Nora-and with Amalia, a green-eyed beauty with whom Graham shares his hopes and fears.
Six-year-old Molly is the light of Graham's life. As he and his extended family turn an old springhouse into a playhouse for her, long buried hostilities emerge that lead to anger and resentment. . . and, ultimately, to the healing power of family love. Read More