Tag Archives: Adoption

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

29th May 2012

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Riverhead Books (Penguin) for a TLC Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.

It’s the roaring 20s, and amid the controversy of speakeasies, flapper skirts, rising hemlines, and short hairstyles are two women stuck in Wichita, Kansas, each aching for change in different ways. Louise Brooks is 15, intelligent, cynical, and a fantastic dancer ready to start her career by attending the Denishawn School of Dancing, where Martha Graham also originated. Cora Carlisle, on the other hand, is 36, lonely, and curious about her roots. Left in a Home for Friendless Girls in New York at age 3, Cora was later sent out on a train with other girls to be adopted – some as members of the family and others as indentured servants. Though Cora was lucky and loved by the Kaufmann family, she wants to revisit the orphanage to find out anything she can about the mother who left her there.

Offering herself as chaperone to Louise for a month in the summer seems simple enough, but Louise is determined to make it as difficult as possible. She mocks Cora’s lifestyle and beliefs, her strict societal code, the corset she wears faithfully. Cora believes the girl needs a mother, one who will care for her and guide her as Louise’s own mother does not, but slowly she comes to see Louise as wise beyond her years, causing Cora to question her beliefs and open herself up to the possibility of change.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is both a coming-of-age story and a coming-into-her-own story, and the novel has so much heart. Though Louise is the obvious protagonist, she is not who Moriarty focuses the story on. Instead, she tells the story of Cora. Cora, who loves her adoptive family but experiences grief at a young age. Cora, who loves her husband but has no intimacy with him. Cora, whose children are going to college, leaving her alone in the house and lonely.

Cora is a product of her generation. She supports Prohibition and is appalled at the changing trends of the 20s. Choosing to leave her husband for a month to chaperone Louise in New York is a monumental decision, and one that, if her husband didn’t have a secret that could destroy him, she may not have been allowed to make. And Louise doesn’t make it easy; she’s condescending and rude to Cora, holding Cora up as the worst of society. But Cora does the same to Louise, even though she sees moments where Louise is kind, but slowly she realizes the ludicrousness of some of the social mores of her times and begins to change, living a lifestyle Louise would probably approve, and as she notes beautifully about her changing perspective, “She was grateful life could be long.”

That summer is just one part of the book, but its effects follow Cora back to Kansas, and though the latter half of this book witnesses the changes wrought in Cora, at times it felt like a recitation of Cora’s philanthropic goals. However, this isn’t an action novel. It’s intended to be an examination of a life, of Cora as wholly new woman, a woman changed who appreciates her husband Alan in new ways, who is on the board of a home for unwed mothers, and who is unafraid to live a life she loves, even if it is in secret.

As Cora says near the end of the novel:

She was every Cora she’d ever been: Cora X, Cora Kaufmann, Cora Carlisle. She was an orphan on a roof, a lucky girl on a train, a dearly loved daughter by chance. She was a blushing bride of seventeen, a sad and stoic wife, a loving mother, an embittered chaperone, and a daughter pushed away. She was a lover and a lewd cohabitator … a champion of the fallen, and a late-in-coming fighter for reason over fear….she knew who she was.

The Chaperone is a novel of identity and its fluidity, but it’s also a novel of decency and basic human understanding whose power is in highlighting the beauty of something as simple as acceptance and love.

Preorder The Chaperone (out June 5, 2012) by Laura Moriarty from Indiebound or for your Nook.

Check out other reviews at the TLC website.

Picky Boy: The Kids Are All Right

14th July 2010

When I sat down to watch The Kids Are All Right, my mind was on other things. The pizza I’d just eaten (it was alright)…the Cole Haan shoes I want to buy (I can’t afford them)…the A/C unit we desperately need in our living room (wouldn’t it be nice?).

I simply wasn’t prepared.

Here I sit, two days later, and I cannot stop thinking about this movie. Just a quick synopsis for those of you residing in places where this film probably won’t be released: The Kids Are All Right, written by Lisa Cholodenko, centers around two lesbians, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), whose two teenage children have decided to exercise their age-determined right to contact the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) their moms used to conceive them.

That’s what you could say if someone asks what the film is about. But you’d be underselling it by a long shot.

First things first: The acting is phenomenal.

Though she is wonderful in The Hours and Far from Heaven, it’s so nice to see Julianne Moore successfully tackle a current woman again. Her portrayal of Jules is unnervingly honest and I was reminded of the gritty ‘Moore of yore’ in Magnolia and Boogie Nights …and as to why I regard her as a truly great actress.

Once again, I was charmed by Mark Ruffalo who stole my affection years ago as the bumbling, loveable druggie inYou Can Count on Me.

And Annette Bening is perfection as the uptight, breadwinning and wine-loving matriarch, Nic. Bening, prone to roles in which she gets to stretch her overdramatic muscles (a la American Beauty and Being Julia), unwaveringly steamboats her way through this film, unafraid to knock anyone from her path in quick, concise judo chops of wit & severe candor.

 

 

 

The Kids Are All Right

It would be sophomoric to claim that this movie is a statement about gay couples with children. There are so many currents pulsing through The Kids Are All Right, it is difficult to classify the film. It’s hysterical without pause to beg for laughter and it’s heart-wrenching without device-motivated melodramatic outbursts.

I guess it suffices to say the movie is true. It’s a glimpse into a home, not just a family unit. They have fun together, smother each other, support each other, say hurtful things and do even more hurtful things to each other. They laugh, cry, yell and curse. The parents have sex (gasp, it’s two women!).  The kids holler and stomp up the stairs, screaming (You just don’t understand!). The film boldly and unapologetically explores the complexity of relationships and illuminates what can happen if we become complacent and stop seeing the ones we love when they’re right in front of us.

In one pivotal scene, Jules interrupts her family watching a television program to apologize. Through tears, she explains that “marriage is hard. It’s fucking hard.” And all of a sudden, as a viewer, I was struck with the clamor of the film’s voice. The sexuality and gender of this couple…it’s irrelevant. No one is exempt from making mistakes or above hurting the ones we love (especially the ones we love). Even those who have fought for the right to be with the person they love or to be able to adopt/have children. No matter the partnership, be it a straight or gay couple, committing your life to another person is a process. And it’s hard. Year after year, the game changes. You grow, you learn—about yourself and your partner. Life is in constant flux and the world changes around you. For you to somehow change as a unit…how can one not make mistakes along the way? It’s how we approach the resolution, that’s the key. Is it worth fighting for? Has too much time passed? Were we looking for an out anyway? Can we mend this? There are so many questions when trust is broken. It’s refreshing to see a film approach these issues in a mature, realistic manner.

I strongly recommend seeing The Kids Are All Right, alright? It’s a beautiful film with a lot to say, so listen up. Picky boy out!