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Readers know from the beginning of this warm, consistently interesting third novel that its main character, Meg Krantz, a New York ceramist and volunteer for an AIDS organization, will end up adopting Kimble Toffler, the orphaned 4-year-old daughter of one of the men she has been assigned to help. Even as his bouts of illness have worsened, Barry Toffler has maintained a superstitious fear of wills and guardianship papers, certain that as soon as he decides who should care for Kimble, he will drop dead. He watches the growing closeness between Meg and Kimble, and then, while dying, uses his remaining strength to scribble a note on a hospital napkin requesting that Kimble never be allowed to live with her loving but neglectful grandmother. Whether Meg, who had never planned on motherhood, can become all that Kimble needs depends largely on how she resolves her own troubled relationship with her chic, repressive mother, who has often expressed disappointment at Meg's lesbianism and her unadorned lifestyle, as well as her adopted grandmother: her hardheaded therapist, Libby. Unexpected Child is a subtle examination of a significant life change, partly willed and partly fated. --Regina Marler
Adopting a child is difficult enough, but for New Yorker Meg KrantzDa 37-year-old single, self-employed lesbianDit seems next to impossible. Grossman (Inventions in a Grieving House), who's a supervising editor at Scholastic Inc., sets out to wrench hearts with her protagonist's therapy-driven quest to become a mother in this nontraditional family drama. As a volunteer for REACH, a nonprofit organization that assists AIDS victims and their families, Meg makes the mistake of getting personally involved with newly orphaned four-year-old Kimble Toffler. Surprised and pleased by the awakening of her maternal instincts, Meg is unsure whether she will be able to sacrifice her independent lifestyle. With the help of therapist Libby Zindel, Meg realizes that she has spent her life trying to please her disapproving, widowed mother, Charlotte, and that she must stop being someone else's daughter if she wants to be a needy child's mother. With the exception of the amusingly wry and emotional Meg, the characters, particularly Kimble and Charlotte, are cardboard cutouts. Kimble's ethereal looks are described in much detail, yet she has a phantom personality. Too late, Charlotte is revealed to be more than a privileged, prickly mother; her superficiality about material goods and people hides a more complex, intriguing persona that is abruptly revealed, then left unexamined. Grossman's third adult novel (she is also the author of two award-winning children's books) is a fast, easy read, if lacking in substance. Its themes are general enough to appeal to a wide readership, but its core audience will likely be gay and lesbian. (Dec.)
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