Saturday, November 14, 2009

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
352 pages
Published April 2009 by Penguin Group
Source: Purchased

Nate and Cat, heroin addicts and drifters, realize they can't care for their infant daughter, Willa, and drive across the country to deliver her to Joe and Candace Golding.

Seventeen years later, Nate returns, all cleaned up and working at the prestigious Pioneer School. Claire has also just returned to the area with her son, Teddy. Claire, an artist, is returning because her father has passed away, leaving her his home and land.

At the Pioneer School, Jack Heath is the head master who has turned the school into one of the best private schools in the area. Maggie, his wife and an instructor at the school, is barely managing to hold things together as she tries to hold on to her husband while struggling to keep keep their disastrous history a secret.

On the surface, everything looks just the way the wealthy residents of the Berkshires want it to; but under the surface lie all kinds of secrets: prostitution, drugs, infidelity, gambling and dog fights. When the worlds start to collide, secrets pour out and lives are in danger.

I've been putting this one off for a few days, trying to decide what to say about this one. On the one hand, I really liked Brundage's use of mirror characters throughout the book. Willa is a mirror of the young prostitute, Pearl. Nate is the mirror of Joe. On the other hand, the book seemed too crowded with characters and took so long to set everything up. I felt like many of the characters were really well developed but then there were others that felt very much stereotypes. I appreciated the idea of delving under the surface and exploring the idea that everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. I just didn't think it was necessary for all of the secrets to be so awful.

Brundage certainly was able to build suspense once the novel really got going but it felt, in the end, a bit too tidy and neatly wrapped up. And (and I know I'm nitpicking here but it really bothered me) midway through the book, there is what appears to be one of the most glaring errors I've ever found in a book. A character that's supposed to have thrown herself into the Jewish faith is suddenly wearing a crucifix and talking passionately about Jesus. Perhaps it was done intentionally but I was never able to figure out why it would have been. After that, I read on looking for other incongruities which detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

My face to face book club read this book for October and opinions on it were mixed. Some people really liked it, others were lukewarm. But we did have a really wonderful talk with Elizabeth Brundage. She was eager to not only discuss her work but to get to know us. We try to talk to authors about every other month and this really one of the most successful calls we've had. Brundage is also the author of "The Doctor's Wife" and has another book coming out in 2010.

There are some very graphic depictions of animal cruelty and sexual acts in this book.


  1. I totally agree with you. While watching Pride and Prejudice I think that Colin Firth is the most amazing guy in the whole universe. He just does perfect job in that adaptation.

    Great review again, I enjoy reading these a lot! :)

  2. That's where I know the author from. I read The Doctor's Wife and rather enjoyed it. This one sounds complex. Great review!

  3. I have to say I agree with a lot of your review - I loved this book as a book club selection, there is A LOT to discuss (which is what I'm always looking for with BC picks).

    It did wrap up too neatly. It was a very dark book selection for our BC but the author discussion was fantastic.

    can't wait to discuss Olive Kitteridge - this is also a book with unlikeable characters and the writing style can be compared to (in that you learn more as you turn the pages). I loved the writing style of Olive, didn't love storyline though.

    See you Tuesday!

  4. I saw this book recently and was very interested in reading it. I appreciate the honest of your review. It sounds like a pretty good read but I wonder about that error as well. I have encountered things like that in books before and it bothers me quite a bit. I want to read the book a little bit to see what that's all about but it also makes me less interested in the actual story!
    I'll have ti think about this!
    Thanks for your great review, Lisa!

  5. How cool that your book club got the chance to speak with the author. My book club has never gotten an opportunity like that!

  6. Sounds interesting despite its problems. I have to admit I like tidy endings.

  7. I have this one in my TBR. I'm a bit turned off by your warning, though! I have a serious issue with animal cruelty, so I'm not sure if I should read this now! Thanks for your thoughts!

    I enjoyed Olive Kitteridge. It was a bit of a quirky book, so I'm curious what your thoughts are when you finish!


  8. Sounds a bit too heady for me, so thanks for the heads up!


  9. The cover caught my eye but your warnings at the end of review let me know that this is not a book I would enjoy. Thank you for the heads up on that.

  10. I don't think I could read about animal cruelty!

  11. The book sounds good but I am not sure it is for me.

    But thank you for the review !

  12. I've had this book on my tbr shelf for ages. I'm not sure I could handle animal cruelty though-that's a no-no for me. Glad you had a nice chat with the author. That's awesome.

  13. Hmmm...I can't handle the animal cruelty for sure. But it sounds like it was a good book club pick if nothing else. :)

  14. The animal cruelty is a turn off for me too. Thanks for the warning.

  15. Sheila (bookjourney) - I can't read anything graphic and I was able to read through this - the dog part wasn't necessary.

    I wouldn't let this stop you if this is the only reason for not picking it up. It's a great book club selection since there will be SO much to discuss. Especially if you talk with the author.

    That said... it's not light reading!