Not My Daughterby Barbara Delinsky
When Susan Tate's seventeen-year-old daughter, Lily, announces she is pregnant,/b>/i>
A pregnancy pact between three teenaged girls puts their mothers' love to the ultimate test in this explosive new novel from Barbara Delinsky, “a first-rate storyteller who creates characters as familiar as your neighbors.” (Boston Globe)
When Susan Tate's seventeen-year-old daughter, Lily, announces she is pregnant, Susan is stunned. A single mother, she has struggled to do everything right. She sees the pregnancy as an unimaginable tragedy for both Lily and herself.
Then comes word of two more pregnancies among high school juniors who happen to be Lily's best friends-and the town turns to talk of a pact. As fingers start pointing, the most ardent criticism is directed at Susan. As principal of the high school, she has always been held up as a role model of hard work and core values. Now her detractors accuse her of being a lax mother, perhaps not worthy of the job of shepherding impressionable students. As Susan struggles with the implications of her daughter's pregnancy, her job, financial independence, and long-fought-for dreams are all at risk.
The emotional ties between mothers and daughters are stretched to breaking in this emotionally wrenching story of love and forgiveness. Once again, Barbara Delinsky has given us a powerful novel, one that asks a central question: What does it take to be a good mother?
From the Hardcover edition.
“A topical tale that resonates with timeless emotion.”—People
“Delinsky examines the roles people unconsciously play in families.” —USA Today
“Delinsky proves once again a perceptive observer of family relationships. . . . A tautly emotional story about mothers and daughters.” —Boston Globe
“Timely, fresh, and true-to-life. . . . Explores multiple layers of motherhood and tackles rough questions.” —Publishers Weekly
“Delinsky has a knack for exploring the battlefields of contemporary life. . . . Not My Daughter [is] an emotionally intelligent [book that] offers readers what they want—high drama and realism.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Delinsky treads the same domestic themes as fellow best-seller Jodi Picoult.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An engaging writer who knows how to interweave several stories about complex relationships and keeps her books interesting to the end. Her special talent for description gives the reader almost visual references to the surroundings she creates.” —Newark Star-Ledger
“[She] may be as adept at chronicling contemporary life in New England as any writer this side of John Updike.” —Times Union (Albany)
“Delinsky uses nuance and detail to draw realistic characters and ensure that emotion is genuine.” —The Providence Journal
“Barbara Delinsky knows the human heart and its immense capacity to love and believe.” —Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA)
“Delinsky delves deeper into the human heart and spirit with each new novel.” —Cincinnati Inquirer
“Delinsky [is] out there with the Anita Shreves and Elizabeth Bergs, perpetually bestselling authors who wrestle with bigger themes.” —Lexington Herald-Ledger
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Read an Excerpt
Susan Tate never saw it coming. She only knew that her daughter was different. The girl who had always been spontaneous and open had suddenly grown opaque.
Lily was seventeen. Maybe that said it. A senior in high school, she had a loaded course schedule, played field hockey and volleyball, and sang in an a cappella group. And, yes, Susan was spoiled by the close relationship she and Lily had always had. Theywere a family of two, fully comfortable with that and each other.
Inevitably, Lily had to test her wings. Susan knew that. But she also had a right to worry. Lily was the love of her life, the very best thing that had happened in all of her thirty-five years. As achievements in life went, being a good mother was theone she most prized.
That meant communicating, and with dinner too often interrupted by e-mail or texts, eating out was warranted. At a restaurant Susan would have Lily captive while they waited to order, waited for food, waited to pay--all quality time.
She suggested the Steak Place, definitely a splurge, but lined with quiet oak booths. Lily vetoed it in favor of Carlino's.
Carlino's wasn't even Susan's second choice. Oh, she liked the owners, the menu, and the art, all of which were authentically Tuscan. But the prices were so reasonable for large plates of food that the whole town went there. Susan wanted privacy and quiet;Carlino's was public and loud.
But she wanted to please Lily, so she gave in and, determined to be a good sport, smilingly hustled her daughter out of the November chill into a hive of warmth and sound. When they finally finished greeting friends and were seated, they shared hummuson toasted crostini, and though Lily only nibbled, she insisted it was good. More friends stopped by, and, in fairness, it wasn't only Lily's fault. As principal of the high school, Susan was well known in town. Another time, she would have enjoyed seeing everyone.
But she was on a mission this night. As soon as she was alone with Lily again, she leaned forward and quietly talked about her day at school. With next year's budget due by Thanksgiving and town resources stagnant, there were hard decisions to be made.Most staff issues were too sensitive to be shared with her seventeen-year-old daughter, but when it came to new course offerings and technology, the girl was a worthy sounding board.
Susan's motive actually went deeper, to the very heart of mothering. She believed that sharing adult issues encouraged Lily to think. She also believed that her daughter was insightful, and this night was no exception. Momentarily focused, Lily asked goodquestions.
No sooner had their entrees come, though--chicken with cannellini beans for Lily, salmon with artichokes for Susan--than a pair of Susan's teachers interrupted to say hello. As soon as they left, Susan asked Lily about the AP chem test she'd had that morning. Though Lily repliedvolubly, her answers were heavy on irrelevant facts, and her brightness seemed forced. She picked at her food, eating little.
More worried than ever, Susan searched her daughter's face. It was heart shaped, as sweet as always, and was framed by long, shiny sable hair. The hair was a gift from her father, while her eyes--Susan's eyes--were hazel and clear, her skin creamy andsmooth.
She didn't look sick, Susan decided. Vulnerable, perhaps. Maybe haunted. But not sick.
Even when Lily crinkled her nose and complained about the restaurant's heavy garlic smell, Susan didn't guess. She was too busy assuring herself that those clear eyes ruled out drug use, and as for alcohol, she had never seen bottles, empty or otherwise,in Lily's room. She didn't actively search, as in checking behind clutter on the highest shelves. But when she returned clean laundry to drawers or hung jeans in the closet, she saw nothing amiss.
Alcohol wouldn't be a lure. Susan drank wine with friends, but rarely stocked up, so it wasn't like Lily had a bar to draw from. Same with prescription drugs, though Susan knew how easy it was for kids to get them online. Rarely did a month go by withouta student apprehended for that.
Susan blinked. "Yes, sweetheart?"
"Look who's distracted. What are you thinking about?"
"You. Are you feeling all right?"
There was a flash of annoyance. "You keep asking me that."
"Because I worry," Susan said and, reaching across, laced her fingers through Lily's. "You haven't been the same since summer. So here I am, loving you to bits, and because you won't say anything, I'm left to wonder whether it's just being seventeen andneeding your own space. Do I crowd you?"
Lily sputtered. "No. You're the best mom that way."
"Is it school? You're stressed."
"Yes," the girl said, but her tone implied there was more, and her fingers held Susan's tightly.
"I'm okay with those."
"Then calculus." The calc teacher was the toughest in the math department, and Susan had worried Lily would be intimidated. But what choice was there? Raymond Dunbar was thirty years Susan's senior and had vocally opposed her ascension to the principalship.If she asked him to ease up, he would accuse her of favoritism.
But Lily said, "Mr. Dunbar isn't so bad."
Susan jiggled Lily's fingers. "If I were to pinpoint it, I'd say the change came this past summer. I've been racking my brain, but from everything you told me, you loved your job. I know, I know, you were at the beach, but watching ten kids under the ageof eight is hard, and summer families can be the worst."
Lily scooped back her hair. "I love kids. Besides, I was with Mary Kate, Abby, and Jess." The girls were her three best friends, and the daughters of Susan's best friends. All three girls were responsible. Abby occasionally lacked direction, like her mom,Pam, and Jessica had a touch of the rebel, though her mother, Sunny, did not. But Mary Kate was as steady as her mom, Kate, who was like a sister to Susan. With Mary Kate along, Lily couldn't go wrong.
Not that Lily wasn't steady herself, but Susan knew about peer pressure. If she had learned one thing as a teacher it was that the key to a child's success lay in no small part with the friends she kept.
"And nothing's up with them?" she asked.
Lily grew guarded. "Has Kate said anything?"
Susan gentled. "Nothing negative. She always asks about you, though. You're her sixth child."
"But has she said anything about Mary Kate? Is she worried about her like you're worried about me?"
Susan thought for a minute, then answered honestly. "She's more sad than worried. Mary Kate is her youngest. Kate feels like she's growing away from her, too. But Mary Kate isn't my concern. You are." A burst of laughter came from several tables down.Annoyed by the intrusion, Susan shot the group a glance. When she turned back, Lily's eyes held a frightened look.
Susan had seen that look a lot lately. It terrified her.
Desperate now, she held Lily's hand even tighter and, in a low, frantic voice, said, "What is wrong? I'm supposed to know what girls your age are feeling and thinking, but lately with you, I just don't. There are so many times when your mind is somewhereelse--somewhere you won't allow me to be. Maybe that's the way it should be at your age," she acknowledged, "and it wouldn't bother me if you were happy, but you don't seem happy. You seem preoccupied. You seem afraid."
Susan gasped. Freeing her hand, she sat straighter. She waited for a teasing smile, but there was none. And of course not. Lily wouldn't joke about something like this.
Her thoughts raced. "But--but that's impossible. I mean, it's not physically impossible, but it wouldn't happen." When Lily said nothing, Susan pressed a hand to her chest and whispered, "Would it?"
"I am," Lily whispered back.
"What makes you think it?"
"Six home tests, all positive."
"Not late. Missed. Three times."
"Three? Omigod, why didn't you tell me?" Susan cried, thinking of all the other things a missed period could mean. Being pregnant didn't make sense, not with Lily. But the child didn't lie. If she said she was pregnant, she believed it herself--not that it was true. "Home tests can be totally misleading."
"Nausea, tiredness, bloating?"
"I don't see bloating," Susan said defensively, because if her daughter was three months pregnant, she would have seen it.
"When was the last time you saw me naked?"
"In the hot tub at the spa," she replied without missing a beat.
"That was in June, Mom."
Susan did miss a beat then, but only one. "It must be something else. You don't even have a boyfriend." She caught her breath. "Do you?" Had she really missed something? "Who is he?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter? Lily, if you are--" She couldn't say the word aloud. The idea that her daughter was sexually active was totally new. Sure, she knew the statistics. How could she not, given her job? But this was her daughter, her daughter. They had agreed--Lilyhad promised--she would tell Susan if she wanted birth control. It was a conversation they'd had too many times to count. "Who is he?" she asked again.
Lily remained silent.
"But if he's involved--"
"I'm not telling him."
"Did he force you?"
"No," Lily replied. Her eyes were steady not with fear, now, but something Susan couldn't quite name. "It was the other way around," she said. "I seduced him."
Susan sat back. If she didn't know better, she might have said Lily looked excited. And suddenly nothing about the discussion was right--not the subject, not that look, certainly not the place. Setting her napkin beside the plate, she gestured for theserver. The son of a local family, and once a student of Susan's, he hurried over.
"You haven't finished, Ms. Tate. Is something wrong?"
Something wrong? "No, uh, just time."
"Should I box this up?"
"No, Aidan. If you could just bring the bill."
He had barely left when Lily leaned forward. "I knew you'd be upset. That's why I haven't told you."
"How long were you planning to wait?"
"Just a little longer--maybe 'til the end of my first trimester."
"Lily, I'm your mother."
"But this is my baby," the girl said softly, "so I get to make the decisions, and I wasn't ready to tell you, not even tonight, which is why I chose this place. But even here, it's like you can see inside me."
Susan was beyond hurt. Getting pregnant was everything she had taught Lily not to do. She sat back, let out a breath. "I can't grasp this. Are you sure?" Lily's body didn't look different, but what could be seen when she wore the same layered tops thather friends did, and the days when Susan bathed her each night were long gone. "Three missed periods?" she whispered. "Then this happened . . . ?"
"Eleven weeks ago."
Susan was beside herself. "When did you do the tests?"
"As soon as I missed my first period."
And not a word spoken? It was definitely a statement, but of what? Defiance? Independence? Stupidity? Lily might be gentle, often vulnerable--but she also had a stubborn streak. When she started something, she rarely backed down. Properly channeled, thatwas a positive thing, like when she set out to win top prize at the science fair, which she did, but only after three false starts. Or when she set out to sing in the girls a cappella group, didn't make the cut as a freshman and worked her tail off that yearand the next as the group's manager, until she finally landed a spot.
But this was different. Stubbornness was not a reason for silence when it came to pregnancy, certainly not when the prospective mother was seventeen.
Unable to order her thoughts, Susan grasped at loose threads. "Do the others know?" It went without saying that she meant Mary Kate, Abby, and Jess.
"Yes, but no moms."
"And none of the girls told me?" More hurt there. "But I see them all the time!"
"I swore them to silence."
"Does your dad know?"
Lily looked appalled. "I would never tell him before I told you."
"Well, that's something."
"I love babies, Mom," the girl said, excited again.
"And that makes this okay?" Susan asked hysterically, but stopped when the server returned. Glancing at the bill, she put down what might have been an appropriate amount, then pushed her chair back. The air in the room was suddenly too warm, the smellstoo pungent even for someone who wasn't pregnant. As she walked to the door with Lily behind, she imagined that every eye in the room watched. It was a flash from her own past, followed by the echo of her mother's words. You've shamed us, Susan. What were youthinking?
Times had changed. Single mothers were commonplace now. The issue for Susan wasn't shame, but the dreams she had for her daughter. Dreams couldn't hold up against a baby. A baby changed everything.
The car offered privacy but little comfort, shutting Susan and Lily in too small a space with a huge chasm between them. Fighting panic as the minutes passed without a retraction, Susan fumbled for her keys and started the engine.
Carlino's was in the center of town. Heading out, she passed the bookstore, the drugstore, two Realtors, and a bank. Passing Perry & Cass took longer. Even in the fifteen years Susan had lived in Zaganack, the store had expanded. It occupied three blocksnow, two-story buildings with signature crimson-and-cream awnings, and that didn't count the mail-order department and online call center two streets back, the manufacturing complex a mile down the road, or the shipping department farther out in the country.
Zaganack was Perry & Cass. Fully three-fourths of the townsfolk worked for the retail icon. The rest provided services for those who did, as well as for the tens of thousands of visitors who came each year to shop.
But Perry & Cass wasn't what had drawn Susan here when she'd been looking for a place to raise her child. Having come from the Great Plains, she had wanted something coastal and green. Zaganack overlooked Maine's Casco Bay, and, with its hemlocks and pines,was green year-round. Its shore was a breathtaking tumble of sea-bound granite; its harbor, home port to a handful of local fishermen, was quaint. With a population that ebbed and flowed, swelling from 18,000 to 28,000 in summer, the town was small enough tobe a community, yet large enough to allow for heterogeneity.
Besides, Susan loved the name Zaganack. A derivative of the Penobscot tongue, it was loosely interpreted to mean "people from the place of eternal spring," and though local lore cited Native Americans' reference to the relatively mild weather of coastaltowns, Susan took a broader view. Spring meant new beginnings. She had found one in Zaganack.
And now this? History repeating itself?
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Barbara Delinsky is a New York Times bestselling author with more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She lives with her family in New England.
- Newton, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- August 9, 1945
- Place of Birth:
- Boston, Massachusetts
- B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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As a mother, who like Susan, experienced this myself as a young person I found the book interesting. I found it very realistic to the reactions felt when living in a small community... despite the fact that the situaion ultimately affected NONE of those characters who were most strongly against it! I think it's a good topic for today, because even though teen pregnancy is not new pact behavior offers it a new twist. Good book!!!
Lots of good lessons and food for a LOT of thought on teenage prgnancy. Wonderful, thought provoking storyline, heartfelt, heart yanking moments that will stick with you. Worth your time.
I enjoyed Ms. Delinsky's lastest book. As a mother and a professional, it made me think about my own children and how I would react if a similar situation happened to them or to their friends. This would be a wonderful book club read that would bring many great discussions.
Boring, boring, boring. I will have to admit I finished it to the end, hoping it would get better as it went along. In my opinion, this was the worst book she has ever written. I was very disappointed.
What would you do if your seventeen year old daughter told you she was pregnant and what if that wasn't the end of it. The story line/plot of this book is engaging, worrisome and very unique in a way only an outstanding storyteller could. She brings us the story through the voices of the young women and the voices of their mothers and families. She gives us a good look at small town America and what could happen if the continuity of that town was broken. Her characters are rich and colorful and so three dimensional that they jump off the page. You will laugh and cry with them, hope and fear with them and above all you'll cheer for them. The novel goes deep into the relationship between mothers and daughters. The dangers of youthful pacts and the consequences they bring. Her flowing dialogue keeps us turning pages as she tells her story. There is romance involved in the novel and it's portrayed wonderfully but it's not the major point of the story. This novel would appeal to all readers who love a great story. To women who have teenage daughters or granddaughters. To those who enjoy a coming of age story. To anyone who loves great literature.
As parents we have dreams of how we want to raise our children and who they will become, what they will do with their lives and we expend so much energy helping to mold them into responsible adults. But when the reality of our dreams and aspirations collide head on with the reality of what our children decide to do on their own the results from these decisions can be catastrophic and life altering for both parent and child. This is played out when three 17-year old girls who are lifelong friends decide that instead of the amazing future that their parents have planned for them another idea makes more sense - having a baby. The girls make a pact to get pregnant at the same time. While each of them comes from a different home life the intricacies of this has always drawn them closer together to provide encouragement. But once they become pregnant and begin to tell their families the fall out that ensues is nothing that they expected or are prepared to deal with and what erupts is not against the girls but their mothers and how these women as mothers failed their children. In particular for Lily whose mother, Susan, is the principal of the high school they all attend is singularly called out in large part not only because Susan is the high school principal. Not only is the backlash at her for setting a poor mother role model to the community but also as an ineffective principal based solely on the fact that she herself was a single mother that had a child at 17. Susan fights for her right to remain as principal but the friends she has always relied upon for moral support are also the mothers of the other girls involved and are struggling with their own inner demons and home issues. While preparing for every possible obstacle that comes up and trying to fight off the nay sayers what Susan never anticipated was that this chaos would cause old ghosts from her experience at 17 to reappear as she thought they were gone if not completely forgotten. Even after Susan worked hard to build a life for Lily and spent so much time on trying to show her what she could have Lily thought she knew exactly what she wanted and that want was a baby of her own. The anger Susan feels at all of her dreams erupting in the blink of an eye fades away as the town erupts with anger and the school board is asking for Susan's resignation. However, as the story unfolds you see how strong women are as not only mother's but as a person in the household and the community because when pushed they will shove back regardless of how much stronger the opponent appears. When it is then discovered that there was yet another girl involved who it turns out was the master mind behind the pact to become pregnant new conflicts with the friends and the girls erupt. But everything comes to a screeching halt when Lily's baby has a serious health issue that must be contended with and all the inner battles being fought come to a halt as everyone rallies around the one person that needs the most love and attention right now - Lily's baby. You can never use enough positive words to describe a Barbara Delinsky book because they are such an amazing read. Perfection does not even come close, wonderful is an understatement and enjoyable is never strong enough. Ms. Delinsky's books tell a story yes, but her books draw you into lives that are complicated, situations that are intense and relationships that are imperfect.
Barbara Delinsky did a fascinating job with her characters. I enjoyed the story line. The idea of a pregnancy pact is not ever at the forefront of my mind. What I liked is the way things worked out. NOt perfectly but fairly realistically. The dynamics of a small town were captured as were the nuances of female relationships. I think this is a great discussion book for moms and daughters as well as a book club.
This was a fantastic book. I loved the storyline and how the book related to everyday family problems that we all have gone through with our children. It's a book a parent could relate to.
A gifted voice performer Cassandra Campbell narrates with ease in both Italian and English. She has countless audiobooks, documentaries, and commercials to her credit plus on stage performance experience. She brings depth and clarity to her reading of NOT MY DAUGHTER. Single mom Susan Tate has done all right for herself and her daughter, Lily, now 17. The principal of the local high in Zaganack, a small close knit community Susan is proud of Lily who excels not only scholastically but also in sports. Truth be told, Susan might be even prouder of their mother/daughter relationship. They're close, honest and open with one another. Thus, Lily's words were a shocker. "Susan never saw it coming. She only knew that her daughter was different. The girl who had always been spontaneous and open had suddenly grown opaque." She is pregnant. Hearing that confession from Lily and having the fact corroborated by a doctor brought back what Susan's mother had said to her years ago, "You've shamed us, Susan. What were you thinking?" She, too, had been pregnant in high school and refused to marry the father of her child. Inspired to a degree by the Gloucester, MA pregnancy pact Barbara Delinsky has fashioned a riveting, emotion packed story about three high school girls who make a similar agreement. The effects on both the girls and their families are thoughtfully explored as each copes in a different way. As the high school principal Susan is, of course, now at risk with some perhaps thinking she is not fit to lead young students. She has fought hard for not only her job but for financial independence. Lily's actions force her mother to re-examine the mother/daughter relationship, as well as the part she may have played in Lily's choice consciously or subconsciously. Yet, at its heart NOT MY DAUGHTER is a story of love and forgiveness. Delinsky's characters are authentic, so real, and ultimately sympathetic. And her story line may lead some to discover just how many ways there are to be a good mother. - Gail Cooke
I enjoyed this book. Nice little vacation for my brain.
I purchased this book because the subject matter interested me. I feel like i've read a lifetime movie. No originality.
One I started it, I could not stop. I liked the characterizations. I wanted to like them anyway, but I found myself feeling horribly sorry for these boys who were picked for their good genes" especially good guy Robbie. Do we really want girls to think that boys can be used this way and discarded just because it's happened to so many girls in the past? And the whole thing had a bright shiny happy ending, making it look like a pregnancy pact is a good thing. Yes, everyone had problems, but the nitty gritty of having a child at seventeen turned out fine for all. It was VERY flat in spots.
Good book for moms. It shows the complication of a mother daughter relationships and standards mothers face.
This is not one of this author's better books and seems to be crying out to be a TV movie. In fact, it's a cross between a TV news magazine story and a made-for-tv-movie! Yes, I admit I read it straight through, but it was an easy read, and to be honest, I kept waiting for it to get better....it didn't. I wanted to like the characters but I just couldn't- the adults seemed to be ignoring reality and the daughters living in a dream world.Single mom, works hard and makes good only to have her "brilliant, top-of-the-class daughter" decide to have a baby because "(she) loves kids and knows (she'd) be a great mom because she had a great role model". If that's not hard enough for you to swallow, add in the kid's two best friends who do likewise and are duped into it all by another wanna be BFF who got pregnant first, later miscarried and left the others "holding the bag", so to speak. Susan, Mom and HS Principal Extraordinaire distances emotionally just a bit, but the combination of her daughter's precarious pregnancy and the return of the oh-so-suave TV anchorman who is the father of her daughter and who, it turns out, never stopped loving her, brings her around, and Baby Makes Three! Toss in a few requisite characters such as crabby old Down East misogynists, hippie grandparents and confused boys who were duped into stud service and the book crosses over into absurdity.It might be a good choice for women's book clubs if the 1) want a light read 2) can suspend reality and 3) want to have some interesting "what if" discussions. Good if you want a quick read, or you can wait for Lifetime to make the TV movie!
I totally enjoyed Barbara Delinsky's newest book. It is a well investigated storyline and very applicable in today's world. Heart wrenching. I felt as though I was going through all the events myself. Actually did not want the story to end. Bravo Barbara!!
This was a very touching story of a young girl and her friends that form a pregancy pack. Susan, one of the mother's of one of the girls, handles the situation with class. Even though it cause her some problems with her work, she's a high school principal. I feel the story was very timly and would hopt tha tif I were in that situation I would hnadle it as nicely as Susan. I was very touched that Barbara chose to use my name as the character, Susan Tate. I'm very proud and would definately love to know this character.
This was a good book with enough substance to make it a good Book Club choice. The edition I read had questions in the back designed to start discussions, but I don't think you need them. The book really had me thinking about what it means to be a good parent...and just how quickly a teenage kid can get off track! The characters were easy to get to know and the friendships the women shared felt real. Delinsky also wove in enough aspects of the women's lives to let you see them in three dimensions.
I think it's great for single mothers. Those little babies grow up and have a mind of their own.
Barabara Delinsky is a great writer. I have read all of hers and have enjoyed all of them.
Another great read. Couldn't put it. Down