Thursday, July 2, 2015
Review: Last Family Standing, by Jennifer Allee
Twenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up her baby girl for adoption. Now the young woman wants to meet her birth-mother. In person. On nationwide television. Competing on a survival show. So the first time Monica sees her daughter, the first time she learns the young lady's name, is on camera.
Oh, the delicious things one can do with this premise!
Jennifer Allee wrote Last Family Standing in first person, present tense--a surprise that takes a minute or two to get used to, but it works. The idea that present tense gives an immediacy to the story has been debated among authors for ages, but considering the number of surprises Jennifer slaps Monica with, I really can't imagine this novel being written any other way. There truly is a sense of experiencing for myself the surprises sprung on the main character.
The premise may give the impression of a riotous comedy, but that's not quite right. Although there are a multitude of humorous scenes, this is definitely a Women's Fiction drama. Monica grapples with her role as Jessica's birth mother. How should she be "mother" to a stranger? Should she even try? These are only two questions, there are plenty more. There's curiosity: "What is she doing now? Has she been happy? What has her life been like?" And there's suspicion: "Why now? What does she want from me?"
So, in between the comedic incidents that happen when a city woman goes native, we find soul-searching questions and a wrestling match with guilt.
Women's Fiction fans are gonna like this one.