Pretending to Dance is listed as a psychological thriller on Amazon and I’m not quite sure I’d go there. You know that the main character, Molly, is hiding things both from herself and from her husband, but I didn’t think the author was hiding anything from the readers. I figured out the “big mystery” within about a chapter and the rest just felt like a highly angsty fictional tale.
The story is split between present time and the summer of Molly’s 14th year, when life as she knew it was ripped asunder. Now in her 30s, Molly is unable to have children of her own and she and her husband, Aiden, are in the process of adopting. What Aiden doesn’t know is that the process is dredging up all sorts of emotions for Molly because she herself was partially adopted.
You see, Molly grew up on a mountain in North Carolina that almost serves as a compound for her family. They own the mountain and everyone who lives on it belongs to them. The book recounts conversations about some family members looking to sell of plots of land, but the summer the book takes place, the whole place is still family.
Molly is one of only two children on the mountain – her and her cousin Dani – and so they have an odd sort of autonomy. Her father has advanced MS and she serves as his typist for the book he is writing. At the beginning of the novel, you know three things: one, her mother Nora is a pharmacist, two, her dad’s MS was crippling and three, Molly believes Nora killed her father.
It’s not hard to see where those three things overlap, but Molly somehow doesn’t. Because of this, I had a hard time empathizing with her. Her choice to carry her confusion and pain of a 14-year-old into her adulthood – to the point where it calcified in her soul and made no room for any other emotion – was alienating to me. I know millions of people make choices like that daily, but it is not a trope I care to read about all that often.
Because of this calcified anger and resentment, Molly has essentially been lying to her husband about her family for their entire marriage. When she finally comes clean, he responds so positively and understandingly that he almost doesn’t seem real.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this book, to be honest, simply because I found Molly to be an infuriating narrator as an adult. Her teenage self was too, but that was more understandable I suppose. 14-year-olds are routinely stupid, it’s almost a law of nature, and she was no exception. The adult one was maddening at times.
If you do pick this one up, make sure to enjoy it with a good glass of sweet tea.
- “The Culture of Pretend“: A fascinating article on the psychology of pretending – which is what Molly’s dad advocates for in this book
- Adoption.Com: There are so many ways to adopt children and sites which cater to specific sub-cultures. If you’d like to know more about the ins and outs within the U.S., start here.
- Multiple Sclerosis is an awful and debilitating disease that affects millions of people and families around the world. A cure has not yet been found.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.