At first glance, HER FATHER'S HOUSE starts slowly, even bordering
on boring. "Sometimes in window glass he would catch a reflection
of himself on his way to work, wearing his correct dark suit with
his briefcase at his side." Donald Wolfe arrives in New York City
in the spring of 1968. His life is a happy life. Not exciting, not
thrilling, but he's happy. So the story begins. Not gripping, not a
rip-roaring page-turner, but the reader sees a man that is content
and not trying to fill a void.
Yet it is impossible to leave this story. All those little hints at
normalcy point to a major change --- a conflict that appears when
Donald meets glamorous, smart Lillian. After a brief courtship,
they marry. And as Donald realizes the marriage is doomed, Lillian
learns she is pregnant.
Even as they sort through a divorce and await the birth of their
unborn child, they discuss Donald's visitation schedule, which he
ponders, "How much he really would want or use that, he did not
know. If it should be a boy, he would want it." Not endearing
thoughts, but Donald does feel a moral and financial obligation to
his child. When Tina is born, Donald visits the hospital once and
doesn't see his daughter again for four months.
Gradually Donald learns to love his daughter. Then with a deep
parental love, he realizes that Tina's life with Lillian will be
less than perfect. Thanks to Lillian's new husband, Tina will have
everything that money can buy --- except a mother's love. As Donald
learns of Lillian's numerous boyfriends, he worries about who will
be the stable force in Tina's life if his ex-wife moves abroad with
her new, wealthier companion?
After an accident, combined with the threat of Lillian taking Tina
out of the country, Donald constructs his plan: give up the life
he's worked so hard to acquire and start over with a new identity
with his daughter.
Donald Wolfe drives out of NYC with Tina on a Sunday afternoon, and
several days later, Jim Fuller arrives in a small town in Georgia
with his young daughter Laura. They build a new life in rural
Georgia, with Jim refusing to leave the area even for vacations.
When he relents --- as Laura graduates college --- the carefully
placed lies begin to crumble.
Will the 20-plus years of devotion from her father be enough for
Laura to forgive him when she learns the truth?
Belva Plain's HER FATHER'S HOUSE is written in an unforgettable
voice that will linger with the reader after the book is finished
and will leave the reader to wonder, when is it okay to steal your
Reviewed by Jody Pryor on January 22, 2011
Her Father's House