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Drifting    by Stephanie Gertler order for
by Stephanie Gertler
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is primarily the story of Claire Cherney, a woman drifting through life while dealing with an empty nest, after her son and daughter have both departed for college. Claire is a social worker and her husband Eli a veterinarian - the author depicts a warm and loving relationship between them. But Claire is haunted by unresolved feelings about the mother Sulie, who deserted her when she was barely two years old.

In addition to their normal jobs, Claire and Eli run an inn called Drifting, 'an old ramshackle Victorian' with eight guest rooms overlooking the ocean in Connecticut. While Claire still wonders how Sulie could have deserted her husband and baby as a young mother, a blind, motherless seven-year-old and her dad book into the inn. Claire is immediately drawn to young Kayla and feels sympathy for her father Nick.

But there is more to Kayla and Nick than immediately meets the eye, and it soon brings heartache to all concerned. This in turn makes Claire explore the validity of her assumptions about her own life and she eventually finds the courage to search for her long missing mother. What results is not a trite, sentimental reunion but rather a realistic depiction of feelings on both sides.

Stephanie Gertler paints her story in watercolors, the details sure and delicate. I especially enjoyed comments like one that Claire's friend Annie makes to her on raising kids, 'They don't tell you this stuff when they're born ... They don't tell you not to blink.' In Drifting, the author gives us a gentle exploration of the varieties of pain that parents can cause their children - but ultimately it speaks of resilience and of hope.

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