Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Makeshift Family

Anna Quindlen was a Newsweek columnist who won the Pulitzer Prize for her column “Public & Private” for the NY Times. She left the Times to write books. She has written four books, both fiction and non fiction, since she left her life as a columnist. Her novel “Blessings” was published in 2002.

“Blessings” takes place in the small town of Mount Mason, just outside of New York City. Blessings is the name of the estate owned by Lydia Blessing and her family for over sixty years. The story begins as a teenage couple quietly drive up the long driveway to the main house at Blessings. The boy gets out of the car and puts a box on the steps. But he is in such a hurry he leaves the box on the steps of the garage apartment and not the main house.

The next morning Skip Cuddy, who has recently begun to work for Lydia Blessings, finds a baby, wrapped in a flannel shirt in a cardboard box, as he leaves his apartment. For reasons unknown to him Skip decides to keep the baby. But he can’t let anyone know.

The readers are pulled into a story about a young man, without parents, who found himself in prison for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and a old woman who has led a privileged but lonely life. The story goes from the present, as Skip struggles with his life as the father of a newborn, to the past, as Lydia Blessing is haunted by the secrets she and her family have lived with over the last sixty years.

Lydia Blessing decides to help Skip to care for this child but a betrayal occurs and things drastically change. Anna Quindlen is a master at creating characters that you really care about. Her writing is so clear and descriptive that the reader can’t help but be moved to tears of empathy as this young man struggles to be a good father to this baby he found on his doorstep. And Lydia Blessing finds a part of herself that she thought was gone forever. But Anna Quindlen is never maudlin. She has that innate skill that makes a reader feel that the characters are real and what they do makes a difference.

This is a story about self discovery and family, whatever that family looks like in the end.

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