Parting Gifts
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Daddy's Girl

Island Nation Press

Katharine Marlowe

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Review from Amazon.com

by Alison Trinkle

New York Times bestselling author Charlotte Vale-Allen's 35th novel, Parting Gifts, introduces Kyra Latimer, who was reared in a Barrymore-esque family feeling like she never quite fit in with the rest of her beautiful, talented relatives. Devastated when her beloved older husband is killed in a tragic accident, Kyra can barely function, though her eccentric family does their best to help her cope. But Kyra quickly snaps back to reality when salvation arrives in the form of a dirty, bruised little scrap of humanity: a 3-year-old boy named Jesse. Literally dumped on her doorstep by his hard-eyed young mother, who claims to be the daughter Kyra gave up for adoption as a teenager--an interesting proposition, as Kyra is unable to have children--Jesse has seen and experienced too much ugliness in his young life and keeps warily silent. Given the choice of taking the tiny stranger into her home and heart or letting his mother place Jesse in foster care so she can move away with her boyfriend, Kyra begins negotiating the rough waters of teaching a child to trust again. Thrown together by chance, this unlikely duo muddles along as well as it can. Kyra and Jesse simultaneously grieve their losses and learn to love the new opportunities they've been afforded just by being together. Along the way, the boy, who has no reason to trust others, especially a mother, grows into an exceptionally loving and talented young man. And Kyra, who once lamented her inability to conceive, devotes herself to nurturing and loving Jesse, thereby learning to nurture and love herself as well. As Kyra learns how to become a mother, Jesse learns to let her try--and sometimes fail--to parent him. But the biggest challenge of all lies ahead for Kyra and Jesse. Can a mother who loves her young son respect his life-or-death choice? Canadian-born author Charlotte Vale-Allen has never shied away from exploring less-than-admirable human behaviors, including incest and sexual abuse. In Parting Gifts, she turns her discerning eye to physical and emotional abuse, blended families, and the unique problems of foster care and adoption. Allen captures the day-to-day struggle of all women, making their problems and issues real and making readers care what happens to Jesse and Kyra. A captivating and touching read.

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Review from Publishers Weekly

A poignant story of parental love propels bestselling author Allen's 35th novel. A newly widowed British costume designer, Kyra Latimer, 38, is confronted, on the day of her husband's funeral, by a strident young woman who insists she is the daughter Kyra gave up for adoption 20-odd years ago. Although Kyra never had a child, she agrees to take in her alleged grandson, a ragamuffin three-year-old named Jesse, who would otherwise end up in foster care. Allen spins a compelling narrative in recounting how Jesse, who has been physically abused and neglected (a subject Allen first explored in her autobiography, Daddy's Girl), profoundly alters Kyra's life. Kyra, who has always felt that her own mother, a famous actress, never loved her, is fulfilled by being able to nurture a child. Jesse, it turns out, is unusually gifted; his extraordinary talents for observation and communication are manifest in a book he writes when he is only 12. But Jesse is soon diagnosed with kidney disease, possibly incurred when he was beaten as a toddler. Allen, who likes to inform as well as entertain, imparts much information about kidney failure, dialysis and alternative treatments. ***But the plot goes awry when Kyra astonishingly allows the adolescent Jesse to make a life-threatening decision regarding his health-care treatment. This plot twist undermines the plausibility of what is otherwise an inspiring story about how people cope when a loved one develops a potentially terminal illness, as well as a moving portrayal of the power of love to heal those who have been abused. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

***Author's note: Clearly, this reviewer is one of the people who wouldn't trust a child to make his/her own decisions.

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Review from the Romantic Times

Vale-Allen paints a vivid picture of thought-provoking reality that occurs more often that we would like to believe.

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Review from the Booklist

Tragedy and opportunity go hand in hand in this bittersweet tale of one woman's ability to cope with life and death. In 1976 British costume designer Kyra Latimer loses her husband in a tragic accident. She is devastated and copes only with the help of her eccentric aunt and cousin. After the funeral, she arrives back at her apartment to find a strange young woman with a small child. The woman claims that she's the child Kyra gave up for adoption and that the three-year-old boy is Kyra's grandson, and she insists that if Kyra won't take custody of Jesse, she'll relinquish him to the child welfare system. Although she knows she isn't the girl's mother, Kyra, who always wanted a child, agrees. Jesse has been abused, but, in spite of her aunt's and cousin's objections, Kyra and the boy develop a special relationship and Jesse thrives until, years later, he becomes seriously ill. Fortunately, Allen's somber story is saved from becoming maudlin by a cast of wonderful auxiliary characters.

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