b-mother

Maureen O'Brien, Author . Harcourt $24 (276p) ISBN 978-0-15-101398-2

Among the recent spate of adoption memoirs, the voices of birth mothers have been woefully underrepresented. O'Brien covers the territory in her debut novel spanning nearly 20 years, beginning in 1980—less than a decade after the legalization of abortion and the advent of open adoptions. Hillary Birdsong, 16, has felt adrift since the death of her idealized older brother in a fraternity hazing ritual four years earlier. Emotionally neglected by her perpetually grieving mother, Hillary clings to glamorous party boy Miles, becoming pregnant during a summer fling when he vacations in her small Maine resort town. Unsupported by Miles and her parents, Hillary waits out her late pregnancy in a Catholic girls' home. Her son, Tom, is adopted, and Hillary spends the next 18 years putting her life back together while anticipating annual letters from Tom's adoptive mother and awaiting the day when she can legally interact with her son. Beyond some florid description and artificial dialogue, O'Brien's narrative does convey the long healing process after giving up a child for adoption. But the novel's long time span seems vague and undeveloped, making readers feel as if they, like Hillary, are just biding time until the mother and son's eventual reunion. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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