Book Report: “Pretending to Dance”

Pretending to Dance, by Diane Chamberlain

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“Good golly, Miss Molly.” That quote from my years growing up predates the years of our main character Molly. Another mismatch is that I am not the target audience for this novel. Neither of those aspects kept me from appreciating the work.

Good golly, Molly has issues; make that ISSUES. The antagonist of this story is Molly’s past, or as she clearly says, “My past is in my way, … a roadblock, holding me back, keeping me from moving forward. I have no idea how to make it go away.”

Her father is a psychologist, or psychotherapist. One of that ilk could become immersed in the characters of this novel. (Behaviorists could spend a career in the setting on Morrison Ridge.) He loves her and helps her, but in a hesitant ‘when-you-are-old-enough-to-deal-with-it’ manner that holds her back. Her mother justifies it later, when Molly wishes she had known the truths of her childhood: “You couldn’t have handled it, honey. … It wouldn’t have been fair for us to lay it on you. …”

Molly wants to help nearly everyone, which young Miss M. describes as “the burden of needing to keep not only my father happy …”. When her husband attributes that ‘helping’ character element to her, she thinks, “…I am not that generous person Aidan described.” She has one thought from which to draw that conclusion, an example of Molly’s think-and-react nature. Despite having become a lawyer, she is not a person who gathers evidence when dealing with her own life, not a builder of plus-and-minus tables, not a mental calculus aficionado. I am not like this gal in more ways than age alone.

Nearly everyone wants to help Molly, but for most of her life she has not helped herself, now she won’t let the person closest to her do it, and has shut out those who want to come back into her life. Nobody has her address, and Molly lacks the ability to address her past without the people who created it. “There have been months… maybe even years … when I haven’t thought once about Amalia. … I know she’s tried to get in touch with me through Dani over the years, the same way Nora has, …”.

Author Diane Chamberlain weaves an excellent tale, supported by her research, and stays within the historic timeframe(s) of the story. There are descriptive gems for readers like me that marvel at the writer’s capability of expression, including these jewels:

  • “I sat alone in the dark, my body trembling convulsively. I felt nauseous, as though if I tried to get up off the bed, I’d get sick. My body was sore and my heart ached.”
  • “Practicing law lifts pretense to an art form. I pretend every day that my clients are in the right, that I am not twisting the truth to win their cases.but I know the truth about myself and my work: I am a pretender of the first order. And I’m a little tired of it.”

I enjoyed “Pretending to Dance” and look forward to meeting this North Carolina author.

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