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Special Relationship    by Robyn Sisman Amazon.com order for
Special Relationship
by Robyn Sisman
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2007 (1995)
Hardcover, Paperback
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Originally written in 1995, Robyn Sisman's first novel, Special Relationship, has just been released for the first time on this side of the Atlantic. While the story is British at heart, North Americans will also be able to relate to it maybe a little too well.

It is 1992, and Tom Hamilton is at Oxford. Upon moving in, he discovers a picture hidden in his mother's old truck back from when she went to Oxford. A casual remark about how the man in the picture looks like him sends Tom on a mad goose chase all over England and then to the United States, in order to discover the secret of his paternity. Meanwhile, his mother Annie is having enough problems with her job and the news that her estranged mother is dying to deal with her crazed oldest child. However, she tries to do what she can to stop Tom from tracking down American Democratic hopeful, Jordan Hope, and proclaiming his unfounded belief that he is Jordan's illegitimate son. In the middle of the novel, Sisman flashes back to Annie and Jordan's days at Oxford, showing Annie's on-again, off-again relationship with her now husband and her infatuation with the handsome Rhodes Scholar.

The story is engaging enough to keep the reader interested until the end. Also, as so often in real life, Sisman's characters are left knowing no more than they started with, but having grown some in their quest for answers. The problem I had with the book (other than feeling the title was weak and did not reflect the story well) was a lack of originality in the characters. Though many are standard fare for this type of novel, the one that really stands out as stereotyped is Jordan Hope. Aside from having no children and being from the Midwest instead of the South, Jordan Hope is a carbon copy of Bill Clinton. Maybe this similarity does not bother British readers, but, as an American who lived through the Clinton administration, it became rather annoying. Special Relationship was Robyn Sisman's debut novel. She has a style that will appeal to fans of British chick lit and I am curious to read one of her more recent novels.

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