The English American

by Alison Larkin
ages: adult
First sentence: “I think everyone should be adopted.”
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If you’ve hung around here for any time at all, you know I love many things British. So, how could I resist a book with this title (or the pretty cover)? I couldn’t, though it’s been on my TBR list for a very long time.

Pippa Dunn is adopted. She’s had a good life, growing up in England and traveling the world with her parents and sister. Yet, even though she’s mostly happy — she has abandonment issues with her relationships — she wonders: who is she, really? Who are the people who gave her life? What are they really like? So, she sets out on a quest to meet her birth parents, and to hopefully figure out herself.

She sets up a meeting with her birth mother, who, by all accounts (except for Pippa’s, at first), is crazy. Needy, clingy, paranoid… you name it, this woman is mentally unstable. Pippa tries for a connection, but finds that — after a while — it’s best to just get out. She finds her father — she’s a product of an affair — and while, initially connecting with him, discovers that he, too, is not what she wanted, needed or expected.

The whole book is her journey to this conclusion: that, while it’s nice to know the people who gave you your genes, that does not a family make. It’s an interesting journey, though. I liked the tension between British customs and manners and American ones, which created much of the tension in the book. There was a bit of a romance (hooray, she ended up with the guy I wanted her to!), as well, but mostly it was about self-discovery.

And in that journey, I felt that there was something missing. Perhaps the pacing was off: I felt too much time was devoted to her discovering her parents and not enough to developing anything else; everything happened overly fast at the end, wrapped up in a neat little bow. Perhaps it wasn’t British enough, or funny enough: I didn’t laugh as much or as often as I hoped I would. It also lacked a wit that I think would have helped the book overall in the end. Perhaps it was that I’m not all that interested, right now, in self-discovery: there was a lot of Pippa flailing around, trying to figure out who “Pippa Dunn” really is. I can respect that, but it’s a journey for much younger, much less settled people, which I am not. I’m sure it would mean more, as well, to someone who was adopted, or had adopted a child.

All that said, it was a quick, fun, mostly enjoyable read.

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