Rated Reads

The English American

by Alison Larkin

Rated: Moderate

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, she hopes, to 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 she initially connects with him, Pippa discovers that he, too, is not what she wanted, needed or expected.

The whole book is her journey to this conclusion: 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, as well, but mostly it was about self-discovery.

In that journey, I felt that there was something missing. Perhaps the pacing was off: I felt too much time was devoted to Pippa’s 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’s a fun, light, entertaining read.

Rated: Moderate, for language. It’s mostly pretty good, but there are a few f-bombs littered through it (I think four tops), at really odd times, which is quite jarring. There’s some off-screen sex, and the whole thing revolves around an (ongoing) affair.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • The English American
  • by Alison Larkin
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: