I enjoyed reading this novel by Lorrie Moore. It is one of those books where you can tell the author has taken a great deal of care with the language. The main character, Tassie Keltjin, is living away from her Midwestern home in a college town. It is quite a transition to city life from living with her parents and a brother on a farm. For a twenty-year-old she is very observant as evidenced here:
“After a childhood of hungering to be an adult, my hunger had passed. Unexpected fates had begun to catch my notice. These middle-aged women seemed very tired to me, as if hope had been wrung out of them and replaced with a deathly, walking sort of sleep.”
Tassie makes this observation as she is interviewing to be a nanny. All the women she interviews with seem to be in their early forties. Tassie is eventually hired by Sarah Brink who is hoping with her husband, Edward, to adopt a baby. Tassie goes with them on their adoption interviews and meets the birth mothers along with them.
The Brinks end up adopting Mary-Emma, or Emmie as they call her. She’s a toddler who had been living in foster care. Tassie takes to her.
“I felt sorry for Mary-Emma and all she was going through, every day waking up to something new. Though maybe that was what childhood was. But I couldn’t quite recall that being the case for me. And perhaps she would grow up with a sense that incompetence was all around her, and it was entirely possible I would be instrumental in that. She would grow up with love, but no sense that the people who love her knew what they were doing – the opposite of my childhood – and so she would become suspicious of people, suspicious of love and the worth of it. Which in the end, well, would be a lot like me.”
The Brinks have some adjustments to make to being parents and also find it challenging to be the parents of a mixed race child. Sarah starts a support group. Tassie spends her days with Emmie. She is taking classes and meets a boyfriend – I think this side story is a distraction from the main story. Tassie’s world starts to come apart in more than one unexpected way and how she copes is the main focus of the novel.