Lost Daughters

Laurie Alberts, Author University Press of New England $26.95 (217p) ISBN 978-0-87451-898-6
A mother's decision to track down the daughter she gave up for adoption, and an adopted daughter's simultaneous decision to find her birth mother, form the premise for this affecting but ultimately disappointing novel by Vermont author Alberts (The Price of Land in Shelby). The mother, Allie Heller, who first appeared in Alberts's 1987 Michener Award-winning novel, Tempting Fate, is now a freelance travel writer in New York, staying at a Zen center's motel in New Mexico, the state where she gave up her daughter, Lila, 21 years ago. Lila is now an art student in Massachusetts who has just had an abortion and flies home to her adoptive parents in Colorado Springs to recover. An only child raised in an Air Force family, Lila is baffled by her indeterminate ethnicity, and decides to go to New Mexico and see what her adoption files reveal. The stories of the two women are told in alternating chapters, with Allie's troubled history emerging in flashbacks, written as letters to her unknown daughter. Although the narrative has inherent suspense, the ending is contrived and rushed, with too many dramatic plot twists suddenly introduced without sufficient development. The twin themes of lies (""The gap between what they tell you and what they cannot tell you is where the lies take hold,"" as Allie writes to Lila) and truths (""truth has always been a slippery fish..."") delineate the pathos of this lost mother/daughter relationship, but at the crucial moment, the author unravels yet another hidden secret, the one that held the entire narrative together. The effect is surprising but unsatisfying; in fact, readers may feel cheated by Alberts's trompe d'oeil resolution. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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