PARTING GIFTS

Charlotte Vale Allen, Author
Charlotte Vale Allen, Author . Mira $19.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-55166-853-6
Reviewed on: 04/30/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 448 pages - 978-1-55166-900-7
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A poignant story of parental love propels bestselling author Allen's 35th novel. A newly widowed British costume designer, Kyra Latimer, 38, is confronted, on the day of her husband's funeral, by a strident young woman who insists she is the daughter Kyra gave up for adoption 20-odd years ago. Although Kyra never had a child, she agrees to take in her alleged grandson, a ragamuffin three-year-old named Jesse, who would otherwise end up in foster care. Allen spins a compelling narrative in recounting how Jesse, who has been physically abused and neglected (a subject Allen first explored in her autobiography, Daddy's Girl), profoundly alters Kyra's life. Kyra, who has always felt that her own mother, a famous actress, never loved her, is fulfilled by being able to nurture a child. Jesse, it turns out, is unusually gifted; his extraordinary talents for observation and communication are manifest in a book he writes when he is only 12. But Jesse is soon diagnosed with kidney disease, possibly incurred when he was beaten as a toddler. Allen, who likes to inform as well as entertain, imparts much information about kidney failure, dialysis and alternative treatments. But the plot goes awry when Kyra astonishingly allows the adolescent Jesse to make a life-threatening decision regarding his health-care treatment. This plot twist undermines the plausibility of what is otherwise an inspiring story about how people cope when a loved one develops a potentially terminal illness, as well as a moving portrayal of the power of love to heal those who have been abused. (May)

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