Jennie Rakowsky is contacted by the child she gave up for adoption as a teenager and is forced to decide if she wants to know the child she forced herself to forget about. Jennie Rakowsky is a smart, successful attorney who has one very big secret that she had done her best to forget about. As a young college student of limited means, she met and fell in love with the wealthy Peter Mendes. Their whirlwind romance quickly developed into an intimate relationship and she was terrified to discover she was pregnant. His family was unhappy with her and her background and she was rejected in the coldest possible ways.
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In 1969, there were few options for unwed mothers and since marriage was not an option, she was forced to give their daughter up for adoption. She soon regretted the choice, but the laws were strict, and she was told that unless there were severe mental or physical problems that the adoptee should know about, contact with her was impossible.
Devastated and alone, she makes herself forget and finishes college, then law school and becomes a successful attorney. Many years later, after a lot of work and not much fun, she meets a widower named Jay Wolfe with three young children and they become engaged.
After they become engaged, she gets a phone call that changes everything. Her daughter is an adult, is working with an organization that reunites birth families and would like to meet. At first, Jennie is sure that the company wants a donation or legal advice, as she truly has forgotten about the adoption. Her first impulse is to refuse, vehemently, but the phone call is enough to remind her of all that she lost.
She meets her daughter, named Jill, and finds out that she had a good life. However, Jill wants to also meet and find out information about her biological father, which Jennie does not want. In addition, Jill feels as if she is the dirty little secret that Jennie had, because she has not told anyone about her and met for lunch where people she knew were unlikely to be
The novel is regularly spliced between the current days and when Jennie was pregnant. Jennie is also dealing with a big case that is important for her career and there are many moments where it is unclear whether or not she will be able to concentrate on the case, but eventually she wins.
Finally, after Jay temporarily calls off the wedding because he cannot understand what it is that Jennie is hiding from him, she tells him, about the entire situation. She introduces him to her daughter, with whom he gets along, and Jill meets her father, who is not a bad guy. He was young, scared and pushed for an illegal abortion or adoption because of his family's influence back then, not because he didn't love Jennie or want the baby.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the story because there are not enough books in the world that discuss what it must have been like to be pregnant and have to give the baby up due to societal obligations. The details as to what she remembered from the end of her pregnancy and childbirth were clear, once she allowed to herself to remember them.
Best scene in story:
Shortly into the book, the plot line becomes clear when she is contacted at home by an adoption advocate for her daughter who is trying to reunite them. Her fear and anxiety was so overwhelming at that point that it was almost frightening to read, followed by her immediate anger. In that moment,, it is almost as if the situation were the caller's fault, instead of her own past.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Jennie Rakowsky, but I found her challenging to understand. Her denial of the entire situation was so severe that it did not occur to her when an adoption group called her that they would be calling about her daughter and then I feel as if her own issues allowed Jill to feel slighted. Jill was treated, for at least some of the novel, like dirty little secret, without cause.