cover image Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue

Joyce Kornblatt. Publerati, $17.95 trade paper (178p) ISBN 978-1-73502-731-9

Kornblatt (The Reason for Wings) marks a 20-year comeback with a perfectly crafted novel featuring a middle-aged woman who discovers she was kidnapped as an infant. Nella Pine, a writer and teacher, tells the reader how she’s learned at 45 that Ruth, the woman she thought was her mother for her whole life, stole her from a Pittsburgh hospital nursery. Ruth then fled to Australia, where she gave Nella a good life. In flashbacks, the reader sees how Nella and Ruth share a home with an affectionate, childless widow who treats the two strangers like family. After Ruth is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she writes a confession to Nella about her crime, revealing the facts about Nella’s birth family. Nella finds the letter after Ruth’s death and, after recovering from the shock, finally makes sense of the constant state of subterfuge that shadowed their lives in Australia. As Nella reclaims her birth name, Naomi, she reflects on her deceased husband, who was separated from his unwed birth mother as an infant by the Catholic Church, and considers how loss tied them together. Kornblatt imbues her narrator’s pursuit of self-identity with carefully measured prose: “I came upon the facts of my existence as one who returns to her home in the midst of a burglary: here is the shattered glass, the rifled drawers, the thief with the booty still cradled in her guilty arms.” This author’s worthy return is full of grace and substance. (Sept.)