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Kinship Theory: A Novel    by Hester Kaplan order for
Kinship Theory
by Hester Kaplan
Order:  USA  Can
Back Bay, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kinship Theory shows us shifting relationships that center on forty-seven-year-old, divorced Maggie Crown. Maggie is a wonderfully independent, even eccentric, character; an 'egghead' scientist with a passion for her work, who had her daughter Dale almost by accident, but loved her nevertheless. Now Dale is married herself but, missing a uterus from birth, has demanded her mother's help in surrogate pregnancy. Maggie carries Dale's baby.

Kaplan tosses this pregnancy into the pool of relationships surrounding Maggie, and reveals to the reader all the ripple effects that result in loss and love; 'arcs on the same circle'. As Maggie carries a new life (her child and grandchild) inside her, a family close to her deals with encroaching death. The son of Maggie's boss and ex-lover, Ben, and his wife Doris (who is also Maggie's best friend and Dale's second mother) is dying of cancer. All these people attempt to cope with life, death, and each other - sometimes kindly, sometimes not.

The major focus of the novel is the mother / daughter relationship. I have enjoyed other books that deal with this theme, in particular those by Amy Tan. What I especially liked about this one is that it takes the point of view of the mother, attempting to comprehend an adult daughter, for whom 'her heart had clenched and sighed, and always would.' And this mother, Maggie, is a real person in her own right, a rebel who likes to wander her home naked, and shocks her more conservative child.

The imagery is wonderful. Reflecting on a disastrous situation, Maggie 'pictured the story of that morning running like a dog through the yards of everyone she knew'. Maggie eventually gives birth to baby Lily for her other daughter Dale, becomes closer to some, and further from others, in her circle and concludes 'that in the truest life, pain was part of happiness, responsibility was part of release; you couldn't ever have one without the other.' Kinship Theory is a story you will mull over for a while and then want to discuss with others; a truly rewarding read.
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