Release Date: October 30, 2007
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When a white couple gives birth to a baby with distinctly black features, a family is thrown into turmoil. Hugh Clarke, born into a pedigreed New England family that can trace its roots to the Mayflower, devotes his professional life to championing minorities but is blindsided by his daughter’s color. He urges his wife Dana, whose heritage is unknown, to start digging for answers. Dana adores her baby and resents her husband’s demands. Unearthing her family’s past raises issues for her that go well beyond that of her daughter’s racial mix.
Hugh’s father, Eaton Clarke, a renowned writer, anxiously awaits the results of Dana’s search. Eaton is weeks away from releasing a book based on his well-documented family tree, and will be discredited as an historian if the very foundation of his book is undermined. To make matters worse, his wife, Dorothy, is taking an uncharacteristically independent stand with regard to their newest granddaughter.
Family Tree delves into issues of trust, honesty, privilege, and identity. It debates the way we define ourselves, and explores the duplicity of political correctness and personal prejudice.
“Delinsky often writes with insight about complex family matters, and here adds thought-provoking concerns about race in America to the mix in a novel that will stir debate and inspire self-examination.”
“Delinsky vigorously takes on thorny racial assumptions and admirably allows her characters to acknowledge and correct their biases. Fail-safe delivery of an issues-packed story perfect for reading groups.”
“Delinsky smoothly challenges characters and readers alike to confront their hidden hypocrisies [while getting] the political and personal dynamics right.”
“…a sensitive exploration of the prejudices that many hold but few express… a page-turner that also asks some serious questions about America’s relationship with its past.”
—The Times (UK)
“…a really interesting and sometimes harrowing tale that makes compelling reading.”
—The Sun (UK)
‘“…a hard-to-put-down book as [Delinsky] deftly blends tense family drama with heavy political issues. …It’s a real eye opener to the human character.”’
“…a poignant family story…”
—Daily Express (UK)
Something woke her mid-dream. She didn't know whether it was the baby kicking, a gust of sea air tumbling in over the sill, surf breaking on the rocks, or even her mother's voice, liquid in the waves, but as she lay there open-eyed in bed in the dark, the dream remained vivid. It was an old dream, and no less embarrassing to her for knowing the script. She was out in public, for all the world to see, lacking a vital piece of clothing. In this instance, it was her blouse. She had left home without it and now stood on the steps of her high school - her high school - wearing only a bra, and an old one at that. It didn't matter that she was sixteen years past graduation and knew none of the people on the steps. She was exposed and thoroughly mortified. And then - this was a first - there was her mother-in-law, standing off to the side, wearing a look of dismay and carrying - bizarre - the blouse.
Dana might have laughed at the absurdity of it, if, at that very moment, something else hadn't diverted her thoughts. It was the sudden rush of fluid between her legs, like nothing she had ever felt before.
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There’s nothing that bothers me more than a novelist who writes the same book over and over again. I couldn’t do that. I’d be totally bored. I need to do different things. Each book has to present a new challenge for me.
The challenge in Family Tree was to put myself in a situation that was foreign to me and to try to understand what my characters were feeling. I have never personally experienced the inner tumult that Hugh and Dana do in Family Tree. I really did have to push my mind, heart, and imagination to the limit of discovery each day when I sat down to write. In that sense, there were times when I felt as raw as Hugh and Dana did.
Like Dana’s for her, my yarn store was an antidote. Oh, it’s not really mine, simply the one where I’m part of a weekly group, but those nights are sacrosanct. I find knitting to be therapeutic. One of the few memories I have of my mother was of holding a hank of yarn between my hands while she wound it into a ball. She died when I was eight, and I learned to knit soon after that. Perhaps I feel a connection to her when I knit, perhaps I simply feel the age-old comfort of the rhythm of the stitch. But I do identify with Dana in this. As prone to change as is the rest of her life, this part of her heritage is reassuringly, pleasurably secure.
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