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by Laura Kasischke
Harper, March 2014
278 pages
ISBN: 0062284398

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The sinister is lurking just out of sight in this insightful, gripping novel by Author Laura Kasischke. The author is a poet, writer, and creative writing teacher, and all of her skills and acumen apply in this darkly rich tale of mother-daughter relations. The setting is Christmas morning, and even before Holly Judge wakes up, she feels she has figured something out about her life via a dreamlike state. If only she had time after waking up to write it down, it might clear things up.

However, both Holly and her husband Eric have overslept, and there's about to be a house full of Christmas dinner guests, and Eric's parents are waiting to be picked up at the airport. To add to the holiday stress are sudden, blizzard conditions, which seem to be adding to the misery of the day so far.

As the father rushes off to the airport, readers begin to approach the real heart of the tale: the relationship between Holly and her adopted Russian daughter. Tatiana appears to all of Holly's family and friends as a sweet, thoughtful girl, but her mother is challenged by that other, more difficult, adolescent side of her daughter. There are plenty of conflicts throughout the day, from what Tatiana is wearing to her refusal to help with the dinner preparations, while Holly feels the pressure of guests who are about to arrive imminently.

Things heat up between mother and daughter, even as Holly seeks to remember just how much she loves her daughter and what she and Eric went through to adopt her. It also becomes clear through gradual clues and events that happen throughout the day that something disturbing is happening beyond the immediate vision of the reader. This much is clear: It's all linked to the past and the adoption from a bleak Siberian orphanage.

As readers try to discover what is real and what is delusion, whether it is the mother or daughter who is mentally off-balance, the novel gains in its passion and agitation. Not only has the award-winning author brought all of her keen insight into the prickly relationships between mothers and teen daughters, she has lent her literary skill to developing a disturbing psychological tale whose true secret is only revealed on the very last page (fair warning to those who like to skip ahead and read the ending first).

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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