Thursday, February 7, 2013

The English American by Alison Larkin~★★

Author: Alison Larkin
Title: The English American
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "When Pippa Dunn, adopted as an infant and raised terribly British, discovers that her birth parents are from the American South, she finds that "culture clash" has layers of meaning she'd never imagined. Meet The English American, a fabulously funny, deeply poignant debut novel that sprang from Larkin's autobiographical one-woman show of the same name.
In many ways, Pippa Dunn is very English: she eats Marmite on toast, knows how to make a proper cup of tea, has attended a posh English boarding school, and finds it entirely familiar to discuss the crossword rather than exchange any cross words over dinner with her proper English family. Yet Pippa---creative, disheveled, and impulsive to the core---has always felt different from her perfectly poised, smartly coiffed sister and steady, practical parents, whose pastimes include Scottish dancing, gardening, and watching cricket. 
When Pippa learns at age twenty-eight that her birth parents are from the American South, she feels that lifelong questions have been answered. She meets her birth mother, an untidy, artistic, free-spirited redhead, and her birth father, a charismatic (and politically involved) businessman in Washington, D.C.; and she moves to America to be near them. At the same time, she relies on the guidance of a young man with whom she feels a mysterious connection; a man who discovered his own estranged father and who, like her birth parents, seems to understand her in a way that no one in her life had done before. Pippa feels she has found her 'self' and everything she thought she wanted. But has she? 
Caught between tow opposing cultures, two sets of parents, and two completely different men, Pippa is plunged into hilarious, heart-wrenching chaos. The birth father she adores turns out to be involved in neoconservative activities she hates; the mesmerizing mother who once abandoned her now refuses to let her go. And the man of her fantasies may just be that...
With an authentic adopted heroine at its center, Larkin's compulsively readable first novel unearths universal truths about love, identity, and family with wit, warmth, and heart."

Taryn's Review: I was really excited when I found this book on the library shelf. The premise of the book seemed to promise a captivating read ahead. And the cover was cute, too (yes, I judge books by their covers!).

Lackluster is probably the best word to describe this book. All the elements to create a delightful book were there, yet the story was very predictable. I became extremely bored with the book at times and the book also elicited some serious eye rolls from me. For example, Pippa returns to England and her parents confront her about her credit card bill, which they opened "by mistake" and saw she owed over £3000, or nearly $5000. Once Pippa explained her monetary situation to her parents, her father promptly wrote her a check for the amount. Pippa told the reader over and over in the book how proper the English are and that they don't talk about major issues; yet her parents obviously brought up the touchy subject of Pippa's credit card bill and bailed her out. Oh, and the eye roll-inducing relationship Pippa had with Jack. Anyone who has ever read a book can probably figure out Jack's role in the book after Pippa met him. Pippa's inability to recognize Jack's feelings made her appear rather dense. And Pippa's play, Womb Mate, and its role in opening up a secret nearly made me want to quit the book since it created such an unbelievable connection (and pointless to the story, really).

The "Pandora's box" Pippa opened when she met her birth mother and birth father was again, predictable. Of course they are going to fail when it came to meeting the dream-version of themselves Pippa created her mind. Larkin didn't do the characters any favors by making them so unlikeable, but Pippa's mindless approach to the situation wasn't helpful, either. 

Pippa was the product of an adulterous relationship, coupled with the fact she was given up for adoption. This in itself could have created a fascinating novel to play out the emotions that come with facing that sort of discovery, especially with the cultural contrasts between her two sets of parents. The story was muddled with extras that weren't necessary and created a book that was a disappointment, to say the least.

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