NOT MY DAUGHTER is a riveting story that confronts a subculture of teenage girls and their pact to become pregnant. Barbara Delinsky’s tale is set in Zaganack, a small coastal town in Maine that serves as a microcosm of the social, political, economic and cultural landscape of our times. A company town for an upscale retailer, Zaganack is an old township of family ties and deep communal relations, and its values are reflected in that understanding. But this town will be challenged by the age-old question: What makes someone a “good mother?”
Susan, Kate, Sunny and Pam have been friends for a long time. As part-time co-workers, they even created PC Wool, a subdivision of the local retailer specializing in dyed wools, designs and patterns. Just as the mothers are close to one another, so are their four daughters, Lily, Mary Kate, Jess and Abby. The girls are all intelligent, popular and outstanding high school seniors whose mothers are anticipating them going forward with their education when they graduate.
At a mother-daughter evening out, Lily announces to her mother that she is pregnant. Susan, who became a single parent as a teen, is confounded by the news. She also learns that Lily is not the only one expecting --- Mary Kate and Jess are as well. Susan informs Lily’s father, Rick, who has always been part of their lives but upon hearing this news decides to become more involved. When it is discovered that there has been a pact between the girls to become pregnant, the characters of each of the mothers and their relationships with their daughters are brought into question. How could this have happened to their smart and wonderful children?
For Susan, the high school principal, Lily’s pregnancy has unintended consequences. Susan is faced with defending herself as both mother and principal as she too was an unmarried teenage mother. Her core principles are put to the test as she is criticized for being an unconvincing role model. Some parents and others question if this is history repeating itself.
As the town, school and businesses try to figure out the why, where and who surrounding the pregnancy pact, there are increasing calls for Susan’s resignation. Will she keep her job? What about the girl’s lives, their friendships and their babies? Is marriage something for all of them to consider? Each mother and daughter must evaluate their bond to one another and the new lives growing inside the young women.
Barbara Delinsky’s latest novel reminds this reviewer just how powerful a story --- even a fictional one --- can be. She has captured through her characters and their difficulties some of the social and cultural fabric of our times. This tale reflects the struggles that teen pregnancy creates for the mother-daughter bond, female and family relationships, and their professional and community lives. Delinsky’s characters are like friends you might know, and with her uncanny ability to tell a story, you won’t be able to wait to turn the page.
With realistic dialogue, credible characters and defining values, NOT MY DAUGHTER is one worth bringing to your book club or using in a discussion with family and friends.
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on January 13, 2011
Not My Daughter