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review 2016-09-01 13:50
Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Pretending to Dance - Diane Chamberlain

This will sound like a book jacket blurb, but it's a novel about dysfunctional families, secrets, lies, a 14-year-old's coming of age, and forgiveness. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

 

Here's the blurb:

 

It's the summer of 1990 and fourteen-year-old Molly Arnette lives with her extended family on one hundred acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The summer seems idyllic at first. The mountains are Molly's playground and she's well loved by her father, a therapist famous for books he's written about a method called 'Pretend Therapy'; her adoptive mother, who has raised Molly as her own; and Amalia, her birth mother who also lives on the family land. The adults in Molly's life have created a safe and secure world for her to grow up in. But Molly's security begins to crumble as she becomes aware of a plan taking shape in her extended family - a plan she can't stop and that threatens to turn her idyllic summer into a nightmare.

 

 

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review 2016-03-20 21:39
Pretending To Dance
Pretending to Dance - Diane Chamberlain

I really loved this novel until the ending. I found that the ending irritated me. There are two time periods within this novel, one which Molly is a young teen and one in which Molly is a young adult. I feel that the author did a fabulous job switching between the two time periods. I really enjoyed Molly’s childhood story, this narrative was wonderful and I could have read a whole novel based on this part of her life. Molly is surrounded by her family as the whole family lives on a huge piece of land, acres and acres of countryside which the family has named Morrison Ridge. Each family has their own parcel, housing their homestead all within driving range of each other. Molly’s father is in a wheelchair as his health has been declining over the years. He is a therapist and he also writes books for which Molly has been assisting him. Her mother is a pharmacist; she seems so busy and occupied for which I wondered if that is why I thought she was so cold and distant. Its summer and Molly finds a new friend Stacy. The world that she brings to Molly is one that is laced with boys, lying, sex, drugs, and alcohol amongst other things. Molly is excited, her world has existed among adults for the most part and now she can experience what it is like to be a teen. As she reads over Forever, the Judy Blume book Stacy gave her, I drifted back in time to the days when I read her books in private, concealing the covers so my mother would not know exactly what I was reading. Oh, the education Judy Blume gave me that year in elementary school. I thought this relationship with Stacy was important to Molly’s character, it shaped her, it helped her to determine who she was and she got to experience life. This portion of the novel dealing with Molly’s childhood was filled with drama and stories, stories dealing with all the families, stories with Molly’s family alone and stories with just Molly. I didn’t want this portion of the novel to end.

 

We also read about Molly as an adult. She and her husband are trying to adopt a child. Molly is hiding a secret for which no one, not even her husband is aware of. As they fill out the adoption papers, Molly feels that her secret will be discovered. You can feel the tension in the air as you read and Molly tries to act as if nothing is wrong. As I was reading about Molly as a child, I was trying to uncover this mystery and enjoy her childhood adventures.   There were a few odd developments in the story but the stories continued on without much merit as to whether they applied to each other.   As the couple is hopeful to what could be a new person in their life, Molly is being haunted by her past and what could put an end to her future.

 

I really enjoyed the characters in this story. Molly’s father was loving and fun and I only wished I would have known him before he was ill. As they sang together off-key and as they spent time together, you could feel the love that he had for her. Molly was furious at her father sometimes and that was understandable, for I think she was scared for their future. Her relationship with Amalia, their time dancing together- what fun and what an interesting relationship. I loved the author’s twist on this character and how she was included in this novel. The ending, how Molly could have such emotions for such a long period of time amazed and angered me. What a waste, what a shame that someone did not step in and do something. This is definitely a book worth checking out.

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review 2016-03-19 05:22
Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Pretending to Dance - Diane Chamberlain

Quick review for a rather progressive read. I took my time with reading "Pretending to Dance" - wrapped up with its questions and building tension that told of a family that used to be close-knit but ended up falling apart. This is ultimately Molly's coming of age story with grief over events that happened when she was a teenager. Told between the past and present, it sets itself up as a parallel story between Molly's family with events that happened during a horrible summer and the present where Molly and her husband are about to adopt a child of their own.

I feel like this book built itself up with quite a bit of steam. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the story of Molly's coming to terms and the parallel stories. I appreciated taking in talking points to some very heavy issues, such as assisted suicide, long term illness, grief over a loved one, and the deterioration of a family and coming to terms. But I feel the build up didn't match the story in places - it was the uneven handling that threw me out of the story more than a few times. It's definitely a tale that can spark pertinent discussions and with heavy tones, full of emotion and with the intimacy I'm used to reading about in Chamberlain's works. However, I think the progression of it felt a bit uneven for much of the narrative, maybe building a little too long and with the anticipation only to end up not matching the momentum and swell of that build.

Molly's a realistic character, even through her anger and bitterness towards her family for the events in this novel. I understood it, I even understood how and why she held onto it as long as she did. Many moments I felt Molly's viewpoints were through tunnel vision, but I understood their root, especially when the truth revealed itself. I just wished that the story had been more evenly distributed. "Necessary Lies", "The Silent Sister," among other novels were able to take the intimate stories of the people in each of those novels and give them a little more balance for beginning, middle and end. This had too long of a beginning and middle before it reached the swell of the ending handed to the reader.

I enjoyed the audiobook for what it offered, but the story itself - while giving good talking points and showcasing some beautiful lines of emotion - didn't quite make the connection I was hoping for.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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review 2015-10-08 11:40
Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Pretending to Dance - Diane Chamberlain

 

Pretending to Dance is a moving novel about the damage that secrets can do. Molly is happily married to Aidan, they have a good life together but something is missing. Molly can’t have children so they are going through the process of adopting a baby, it’s something they both want but Aidan is throwing himself into the process and Molly is much more reserved and nervous. She doesn’t want to risk anyone to find out about the secrets she is keeping.

 

The novel then goes back to 1990 when Molly was 14. She was growing up in a tight knit family, with her extended family all living close by. Molly was a typical teenage girl, obsessed with New Kids on the Block and Jonny Depp. She was a very naive girl, having lived a sheltered life, but on meeting a new friend, Stacie, her eyes soon become open to new things, particularly boys, and her focus in life begins to change.

 

Molly had a very close bond with her dad, Graham, she idolised him and she helped him in his work as a pretend therapist. He was suffering from MS and Molly did everything she could to help him and to make his life happier, it’s a wonderful relationship to read about. Molly was unable to see, or perhaps didn’t want to face, the fact that her dad’s health was deteriorating. So when he died it seemed very sudden and seemed out of nowhere to her. She was utterly distraught and began to question everything she thought she knew about her family, which eventually led to her leaving them behind and starting a new life but the secrets she carries are still haunting her.

 

I absolutely loved this book, it is Diane Chamberlain at her best. The novel is part mystery, part coming of age, part family and domestic drama; it’s got a bit of everything and it’s brilliant, I found it near impossible to put it down. 

 

The opening of this book hooks you in immediately when you hear Molly tell how she is not only a liar but a good liar. Straight away you want to know more about her. Is she a pathological liar? Can we trust anything she says? Or is she lying to protect someone? So many questions and you feel compelled to keep reading. Molly is actually very good at keeping secrets much more than she is a liar but there is a fine line between the two - when does a secret become a lie? This is a question I kept asking myself all through this novel because I never really saw Molly as a liar, just someone burdened with a difficult secret but because she never shared her secret, it becomes a lie of omission and she really struggled with that. The idea of whether a secret is a lie, or can become a lie runs through this book and really gives you pause for thought.

 

The storyline focuses a lot on Molly’s dad Graham’s MS and this was so well written. I found it very difficult to read for personal reasons but you know a story is done well when it really gets to you like that. There was clearly a lot of research done into the disease and nothing is shied away from. It was apparent to everyone, including the reader, that Graham was deteriorating but the family colluded in shielding it from Molly, which in the end leaves her feeling very left out and lost. I felt increasingly more sympathetic for everyone in this family, no one had an easy time of it. Molly’s father was trying to keep going as long as he could but was obviously suffering. Molly’s mother was still very much in love with her husband but knew she was going to have to let go very soon, and this meant she became very focused on him which left Molly feeling unloved. Molly was just a normal teenage girl who wanted everyone to be okay, she didn’t have enough life experience to know that loving someone isn’t enough to keep them alive when they’ve had enough of suffering. It made me so sad that Molly and her mother couldn’t find a way to communicate, there were so many missed chances when they could have talked and formed a better bond together. It’s so true to life though that sometimes a misunderstanding, and the keeping of secrets drives such a wedge between people that it seems like it will never be able to be mended. 

 

I was fascinated by Graham’s job as a pretend therapist, I love how it was woven through the book along with Amalia’s interpretative dancing sessions with Molly; it all revolved around the idea of finding out who you are and if you’re not the person you want to be then pretend for a while and eventually you’ll become that person. I don’t know if pretend therapy is a real therapy or even based on a real therapy, but the idea of it seems quite wonderful. I’m going to take the idea of pretending to dance and remind myself of it on the bad days, it really is a great lesson for us all.

 

I rated this book 10 out of 10 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a compelling read that has something for everyone, it’s a book not to be missed!

 

Thank you to St. Martins Press via Net Galley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

This book is published today in paperback and is available on Amazon.

 

This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofBooks

Source: rathertoofondofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/review-pretending-to-dance-by-diane-chamberlain
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review 2015-10-06 21:48
Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Pretending to Dance - Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to Dance was an amazing story. Taking place during two pivotal times in Molly's life, we uncover her past as she tries to come to terms with it in her future. The summer of Molly 14th year was the one that changed her life forever. Molly experienced so many changes in her life that year that stay with her for the rest of her life. It was a summer full of fun and tragedy, and it haunts her still. This summer is beautifully told and at times it seems like such a magical time of discovery for her.

In the present, Molly has lied about her past and her family to everyone. As she gets ready to adopt a child, she begins to re-visit her past more and more, terrified that it will somehow come out and ruin her chances. Her struggle with this is very real. As the adoption itself begins to falter, she goes into a downward spiral both mentally and physically.I learned so much about open adoption, the pitfalls and the joys. It is such a different process than I had ever imagined.

Her present and past come to a head when she is forced to face her past and address what happened there. While she finds a little of what she expected, things weren't quite as she had thought. And so much has changed since then that it's almost unrecognizable.

This was a beautiful story of a family's love and the things a family may be willing to do to help the children. I think this is a must read for readers of all sorts. There are so many very special elements that you will find a way to connect to the characters and their lives.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Source: hotofftheshelves.blogspot.com/2015/10/pretending-to-dance-by-diane.html
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