It is 2014, and in San Diego, CA, Aidan James and Molly Arnette are meeting with their social worker in preparation for being adoptive parents. After losing their birth daughter, Molly had a hysterectomy, and that loss has led to this frightening journey. Molly has many reasons for her fears, since she herself had an adoptive mother and a birth mother, both living in Swannanoa, NC, on a kind of compound called Morrison Ridge.
But Molly’s childhood is a secret to everyone who knows her, including Aidan. The lies have mounted up, however, as her fears grow through the adoptive process. Meeting the birth mother Sienna and worrying about her place in the child’s life, since they plan an “open” adoption, Molly must confront the past.
Pretending to Dance was an emotional journey for this reader. We follow Molly back into her past in alternate chapters, glimpsing her in 1990, as a fourteen year old girl during the “worst year of her life,” while also seeing the relationships she had with her adoptive mother Nora, her birth mother Amalia, and her beloved father Graham.
Suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Graham had reached a point in his disease that required constant assistance. He maintained a therapy practice, however, which he dubbed “pretend therapy,” otherwise known as Cognitive Behavioral Self-Intervention. “If you pretend you’re the sort of person you want to be, you will gradually become that person.”
How did Molly’s “worst summer ever” lead to twenty-four years away from Morrison Ridge and the family she had known and loved? What events caused her to distance herself from the past and build up a wall of secrets and lies? What was the significance of the “family meetings” held regularly during that last summer? How did Molly’s rebellions further sever her familial ties? And now, years later, would Molly finally make peace with the past?
To say that I absolutely loved this book would be an understatement. Glued to the pages, I laughed and wept with the characters who felt so real that I wish I could continue journeying with them. The end brought the kind of serenity I seek in a book, even as I didn’t know until the end how it would all come together. Recommended for fans of the author and for all who love great characters and a wonderful story. 5.0 stars.
***This e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.