Dance With Me
Jane Chadwick, a hip, successful Manhattan cake baker, returns to
her Rhode Island home town to try to reconnect with the daughter
she gave up for adoption during college. That her journey home is
complicated by her younger sister Sylvie, a librarian, who has
remained in place and is currently trying to take care of their
ailing diabetic mother, a retired high-school principal. Meanwhile,
Jane's biological daughter, Chloe, is fifteen and trying to come to
terms with adolescence and her own identity. And Chloe's Uncle
Dylan is trying to revive his family's apple orchard.
Everyone is trying so very hard that they need to be re-taught to
appreciate the simplest things --- an apple tart, a tattoo, and
yes, a dance. Simple, right? But Rice's stories are like homespun
coverlets atop artisanal beds with dovetail joints; the surface is
beautiful, plain, and honest, but what's underneath takes time to
craft and is tricky to put together. In this case, a story about
people confronting loss yet reconnecting drapes a complicated world
of fear. Jane is frightened that she's lost the most important
thing in the world to her; Margaret is afraid of the Alzheimer's
that creeps up on her, Sylvie is afraid she'll never have a life of
her own, and Chloe is afraid she'll never really know who she is.
Not to mention the blame! Jane blames Margaret for forcing her into
a Hobson's Choice; Chloe's father blames his brother Dylan for
wasting money on agriculture; Chloe blames herself for not being
worthy of a smooth operator's attentions.
Rice weaves all of this together artfully, at times almost too
artfully. Of course Jane and Dylan fall for each other. Of course
Chloe thinks Jane is the coolest thing ever to come around. Of
course the shy, potbellied fellow teacher asks Sylvie to play
Scrabble. Of course the farm stand, filled with Jane's flaky tarts,
wins customers. Of course the two nursing homes Jane and Sylvie
must investigate for their mother's care are filled with light and
warmly caring staff members. This is what makes Rice one of those
authors with matching dustjackets, an author whose recognizable
style and guaranteed delivery of the goods makes them publishers'
However, I remember Luanne Rice's first novel, CRAZY IN LOVE, and
how struck I was by its honesty; I see that same honesty in DANCE
WITH ME, despite its sometimes pat plot points. Jane's experience
of young love and her despair over giving up her baby that also
results in her giving up a promising career are rendered
unsentimentally. This is certainly a novel about the "family
dance," as others have called it, but it's also a novel about the
solitary dance we each choreograph for ourselves --- letting go,
hanging on, and coming home.
Without spoiling the plot, I have to say that the dilemma at the
heart of DANCE WITH ME just can't happen today, and certainly will
not be relevant 20 years from now. Rice understands this very well.
Instead of creating a book that will be unreadable in 20 years, she
has written a story that takes the full measure of its time without
seeming trapped by it.
Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on January 21, 2011
Dance With Me
- Publication Date: February 17, 2004
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Bantam
- ISBN-10: 0553802275
- ISBN-13: 9780553802276