24 August 2015

Review: Thicker Than Blood by Jan English Leary

Thicker Than Blood by Jan English LearyAndrea Barton has always wanted to be a mother. Now in her late thirties, with no marriage in sight, she decides to adopt a child. When she learns an African American newborn has been abandoned at a church, she goes through the process of first fostering the girl and then adopting her. Andrea hopes her experience as a social worker working with refugees will give her the insight needed to raise a black child in her mostly white world. Is the mother-daughter bond formed when Pearl is a baby strong enough to last a lifetime?

Quick take: Jan English Leary's Thicker Than Blood is a story of three generations of women, each of whom must live with the consequences of their decisions. Families and the ties that hold them are defined by much more than genetics.

Writing style and Andrea: Leary's prose has almost dream-like quality to it, which reflects the way Andrea approaches her home life. Andrea is smart and capable at work, helping families resettle in America after fleeing their former lives, usually because of war or oppressive political circumstances. But in her personal life, Andrea is constantly second-guessing her skills as a mother and her interactions with her sister and mother. She wants the best for her daughter, Pearl, but is often slightly clueless (or blind) to the issues the girl faces at school, especially during the tumultuous teenage years.

The other women: Andrea's sister, Joanne, is interested in money, social status, and having everything just so, which strains her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Blair. Joanne has trouble warming up to Pearl and doesn't always approve of Andrea's choices. Nancy, the matriarch, adores Pearl, perhaps because she herself was adopted and always felt a little outside the family she grew up in. Blair suffers the consequences of her mother's controlling nature, and Pearl faces many issues as she juggles reality without her mother's rose-colored glasses.

Themes: Thicker Than Blood explores choices and consequences. Among the issues that Leary addresses are adoption, single motherhood, family, siblings, racial relationships, following one's dreams, being impulsive, trying to fit in, and keeping secrets.

What I liked: Leary brings up several topics that makes her Thicker Than Blood a great book club selection, especially with its themes of mixed-race families, sisters, and adoption. The relationships and interactions among the women seemed mostly realistic and showed that no matter how you form a family, you will find both love and problems.

What I didn't like: Although I understand Andrea's general insecurities and how her hopes for Pearl could blind her to some of the issues her daughter faced, I was disappointed that Andrea didn't gain confidence and insight over the years. Nancy had a secret that was, presumably, revealed to Andrea and Joanne by the end of the book. This secret, which readers learn earlier on, helps explain much of Nancy's behavior toward her daughters and granddaughters, but Leary let this drop for a bigger story line involving Pearl. I would have liked to have seen the impact of Nancy's revelation on the sisters.

Recommendation: Jan English Leary's Thicker Than Blood would appeal to readers who are interested in women's relationships, especially in the context of family.

Published by Fomite, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781942515128
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Vicki 8/24/15, 10:26 AM  

This sounds so good! I love books about relationships between women, so I'll be checking to see if my library has it.

JEL 8/24/15, 10:49 AM  

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my novel. I appreciate your take on it and am very pleased that you feel it's a subject worth discussing. I'm very grateful for the added exposure your review will allow.

Daryl 8/24/15, 12:32 PM  

sounds interesting but not my cuppa ... thanks!!

Unknown 8/24/15, 5:50 PM  

Thank you for pointing out that Thicker Than Blood is a good book club choice. I particularly like novels with provocative, discussable themes and actions.

Unknown 8/24/15, 5:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margot 8/26/15, 12:48 AM  

I have been looking for a book club selection like this. We like books that give us issues that make us think and also have topics we can relate to. This one is going on my list.

Tina 8/26/15, 6:37 AM  

Sounds like a good character study, I like when relationships are laid out and explored, a good women's fiction.

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