The English American

Pippa Dunn has never felt quite like she fits in with her very tidy, very English family. Adopted as an infant, Pippa never knew her birth parents, and she’s always had questions about them. At age 28, she seeks them out and travels to America to meet them. Immediately, she feels at home, but as she gets to know her free-spirited mother and her globe-trotting father, she learns that her dream birth parents are not so dreamy after all.

Alison Larkin based this novel, and a one-woman comedy show, on her own experiences as an adoptee raised in England who returns to the U.S. to meet her parents. It’s an intriguing premise, delving not just into family identity but also cultural identity. But this book doesn’t really deliver. It reads like chick lit. And, given that there’s not a speck of pink on this book’s cover, I was not expecting chick lit. But this book has the neurotic heroine who overanalyzes everything, the friends who keep telling her to wake up, the inappropriate relationship, the good guy who gets overlooked, and (Spoiler ahead!) the fairy-tale ending. True, Pippa isn’t obsessed with shopping or shoes, but that’s about all that sets her apart from other chick lit heroines.

I don’t have a problem with chick lit as a rule. Every now and then, I like it, just as I like to eat cheese puffs every now and then. But just as I usually regret the cheese puffs when I’m halfway through the bag, I usually regret picking up a piece of chick lit once I’m about halfway through the book.

The first half of the book really was entertaining. I wanted to know what would happen next. But, as is typical with chick lit, I eventually got exasperated with the heroine. All I could think was, “WAKE UP! Stop already with the whining and overanalyzing! Just get on with whatever you’re going to do!” But I was just interested enough to keep reading. Sometimes, well, the cheese puffs are tasty.

Would I recommend this book? Probably not. But I wouldn’t steer anyone away from it either. If you’re in the mood for literary cheese puffs, then this will certainly do. Just don’t go into it expecting brie, or even a nice solid cheddar.

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3 Responses to The English American

  1. Tara says:

    I’ve read another review of this (the opinion was similar) so it doesn’t sound terribly appealing at this point. I do appreciate your honesty!

  2. Jenny says:

    I was wary of this book to begin with (don’t like dopey books that reinforce cliches about adoption) and this has clinched it. Teresa: She Reads It So You Don’t Have To. :)

  3. Teresa says:

    Tara: The only review I’d read led me to think it was light, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this light!

    Jenny: I was mostly intrigued by the cross-cultural premise–the adoption angle was just a way in to that. But if I were to believe all her stereotypes, I would be absolutely convinced that I’m not in fact American by birth, and I know for sure that I am. Organized people who don’t express every feeling they have can in fact have American genes :-)

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