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Somebody Else's Daughter

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A taut, complex psychological thriller from the author of The Doctor's Wife

Like The Doctor's Wife - which The Boston Globe called "a compelling read"-Somebody Else's Daughter is a literary page-turner peopled with fascinating and disturbing characters. In the idyllic Berkshires, at the prestigious Pioneer School, there are dark secrets that threaten to come to light. Willa Golding, a student, has been brought up by her adoptive parents in elegant prosperity, but they have fled ...

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Somebody Else's Daughter

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A taut, complex psychological thriller from the author of The Doctor's Wife

Like The Doctor's Wife - which The Boston Globe called "a compelling read"-Somebody Else's Daughter is a literary page-turner peopled with fascinating and disturbing characters. In the idyllic Berkshires, at the prestigious Pioneer School, there are dark secrets that threaten to come to light. Willa Golding, a student, has been brought up by her adoptive parents in elegant prosperity, but they have fled a mysterious and shameful past. Her biological father, a failing writer and former drug addict, needs to see the daughter he abandoned, and so he gains a teaching position at the school. A feminist sculptor initiates a reckless affair, the Pioneer students live in a world to which adults turn a blind eye, and the headmaster's wife is busy keeping her husband's current indiscretions well hidden. Building to a breathtaking collision between two fathers-biological and adoptive, past and present- Somebody Else's Daughter is both a suspenseful thriller and a probing study of richly conflicted characters in emotional turmoil.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Bausch
Elizabeth Brundage is a brilliant novelist with an unfailing eye for the detail or word that will make a moment resonate and expand in the mind. It's what every great dramatist has in abundance. This new book is a riveting examination of how the past haunts the present, but beyond that, it is a relentless and powerful study of evil—of the forces that are loosed in our all too human attempts to love each other and find love. It is very moving and completely involving and I couldn't put it down. You won't be able to, either.
Jane Ciabattari
Even if she wraps up the plot a bit too neatly, [Brundage] holds interest with artful descriptions of the Berkshire seasons and her mastery of the varying points of view. She captures the nuances of class and generational perspectives, from brothels, pit bull fights and a Pittsfield battered women's shelter, to the horse barns and cocktail parties of Stockbridge.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Brundage's second novel concerns ugly secrets that lie beneath the glossy veneer of a wealthy town and popular school in the Berkshires, waiting to be exposed by three new arrivals: a sculptor, her son and a writing teacher who gave up his daughter for adoption many years ago. Thrillers often make great audiobooks, because they offer frequent heart-stopping twists and turns. But this literary thriller, with its careful, delicate writing and a slow buildup to a powerful, sudden-and fairly predictable-denouement, is less suited to audio. Despite Bernadette Dunne's considerable efforts, the reading drags from time to time. Mark Bramhall only voices the prologue; the remainder of the book belongs to Dunne, who ably evokes both genders and is particularly skilled with New England accents. Despite the slowness of the story and patience required of the reader, this is a satisfying audio experience. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, May 26). (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A creative-writing instructor returns to the Berkshires where the child he gave up for adoption lives with her wealthy and loving but very troubled parents. Iowa Writers' Workshop grad Brundage (The Doctor's Wife, 2004) slathers on the words in this thriller set in the Massachusetts exurbs, where former druggie Nate Gallagher, the son of academic parents, has been hired by Jack Heath, the headmaster husband of Nate's college classmate, Maggie. Jack is a piece of work. Having fled his last post under a cloud, he has rebuilt the reputation of The Pioneer School on the strength of his charm and the financial support of wealthy parents who are unaware that he is a wife-beater and whoremonger. Nate has taken the job hoping to finish his novel and to get a look at Willa, the daughter he and his AIDS-riddled, dying girlfriend Catherine drove from California and handed over to Candace and Joe Golding on a stormy night. What neither he nor anyone else in the town knows is that Pioneer board president and major donor Joe Golding makes his bucks producing porn films or that the elegant and rather shy Candace has a porn past. The Goldings have done a great job with Willa. She's a nice kid entering the moody phase of adolescence, beginning a little sexual activity with undiagnosed dyslexic Teddy Squire. The apparent serenity of the campus begins to shatter when the headmaster's abuse and some anonymous notes push his wife over the limit; Teddy Squire is given a DVD containing scenes from Candace's darkest days; and a Polish prostitute whose customers include Teddy and Jack threatens to tell all. Uneasy mix of romance, Grand Guignol theatrics and literary gushing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452295377
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 557,966
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Brundage

Elizabeth Brundage is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned an MFA in fiction and a James Michener award. Her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, Witness Magazine, and New Letters, and she contributed to the anthology Thicker Than Blood: I’ve Always Meant to Tell You, Letters to Our Mothers.

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Read an Excerpt

We left San Francisco that morning even though your mother was sick. It was a pretty day, the sun shimmering like a gypsy girl's tambourine. I thought it would be good for her to get out into the sunshine because it had been a long few weeks of rain and her skin had gone gray as oatmeal and she had this dull look flaming up in her eyes. You were sleeping in your little rocking seat and I had your things all packed. We didn't have much. It was time to go, but Cat wanted me to wash her hair first, said she couldn't go out looking like that. Holding her head in my hands I could feel her bright with fever. From behind, she looked like a healthy schoolgirl, just her sweet body and that long yellow hair. Then she'd turn around and you'd get pins in your heart. I wrapped her head in a towel and said, you take your meds today, Kitty Cat, and she nodded with her long face, the kind of woman you see in the museum up on the old canvases, a woman washing clothes or out in the fields, a strong body with large capable hands and this wisdom in her eyes because she knows more than you. She hated the idea that she was sick, and even with you so small she was still shooting drugs. Dope kept her comfortable. It had always been her favorite thing to do and that's the truth. You could see it just after she'd put the needle in, like an angel her face would go hazy and beautiful like so much fog. She dreamed of horses, she said. She told me she'd come into the world wanting to ride, wanting to be near the big dark creatures. Horses understood her, people made her nervous. This was your mother; this was the woman I loved.

We made you one night in a broken house, your mother riding my hips and howling with pleasure, and then six weeks later she's throwing up and wanting strange foods from the Iranian down on Willard Avenue. Months passed and her belly went round and tight. At the clinic they said she had a weak heart and HIV. Maybe her baby wouldn't get it. They didn't know. They gave her some pills and told her to come back every three weeks. She quit dope that afternoon, and took the pills and started going to church. She told me she had begged Jesus for a miracle. She believed in miracles, she said; she believed in Jesus. She liked to light the candles and sit in the darkness and think and then she'd get down on her knees and press her palms together. I'd watch her sometimes in the trembling blue light, among the other whispering strangers.

This one day we were walking through the park, leaning and kissing, that smell at the nape of her neck, the nape, like vanilla, like I don't know what, heaven, and then she's down on all fours in labor and this crowd comes around and she's white as fucking God and the next thing I know we're in a taxi with this Pakistani barking orders and I'm just wondering how we're going to pay for it. At the hospital they gave Cat a c-section on account of the HIV. They let me stand there and hold her hand and when I saw you for the first time I started to cry, I couldn't help it. You were bundled in a little blanket and you had on a little hat and you were the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I handed you to your mother and she was trembling and a little frightened and it made me want to crawl up next to her and hide my face in her heart. The nurse explained that there was a chance you'd be all right; they wouldn't know for a few months, we'd just have to be patient. I promised Cat that everything would be okay, I'd make sure of it, but she shook her head. “I'm sick,” she said.

We brought you home and the very next day they sent someone over from Child Services and it was that same woman who suggested we give you up. She brought two cases of formula and some diapers. She looked around our apartment, her eyes grim. Cat served the woman tea in one of her mother's old china teacups, it had little rosebuds on it, and your mother had saved it for a long time, keeping it carefully wrapped in newspaper so it wouldn't get broken, but the woman wouldn't even touch it. She kept on us, trying to convince us to let you go, to give you a better life, but we put her off.

I tried to find work. I could get work here and there. For a little while things were good between us, and Cat was all right and I sometimes forgot that her blood was tainted. She would do things, buy peaches, and there they'd be, fat and round on the counter, or she'd make a meal and set the table, like we were a real family. I don't know; I couldn't deal with it. It was a time in my life when I didn't know any better; I didn't know who I was. Sometimes I wouldn't come home for a few days and it would be just her and you and she'd know when I walked in stinking of dope, the whole thing, the cigarettes, sometimes women, and she'd just hold me because there was nothing else to do. I know it sounds pathetic to you, who we were, but it's the truth and I can't change it. There's a vivid transition when you come in from being high, and the walls have this mustard tint like old tapestries, and your body feels drained, beat up from the inside, and everything feels like a déjà vu, like you've made this big circle and instead of moving on you're right back where you started.

But this is not a story about drugs. And it's not a story about me and Cat, because Cat is on her way out of this story. Cat is going to die; I think we both know that. You can smell death on your woman, like grease—not the kind you eat—the murky black oil that drips out of your car and makes a puddle on the ground. The black oil that stains your fingertips. She started to have that smell all the time. She went back to dope like a repentant lover, unraveling the tinfoil like some priceless gift, the apartment smelling of burning wax, of scorched pewter. She had crawled back into its warm lap on her hands and knees. One afternoon I came home from work and found her sprawled on the bed like a dead woman, with you on the other side of the room, screaming, your tiny hands brittle with rage. She'd put you in the laundry basket atop a soft pile of clothes. There were notes from the neighbors shoved under the door, threatening to call the police. I found the lawyer's card on the table. Under his name in fancy script it said Private Adoptions. I woke her up and held her in my arms and she wept. “I just wanted to do something right,” she confessed. “For once.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 41 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

    Dont read!

    This was one of the worst books i have ever read. The book was choppy, it had so many stories going on at once i could not keep track of them, and none of stories were interesting until the very end of the book. It was raunchy and for no good reason. I can breez through books , but this was so bad that i didnt want to read it. There was so much pointless filler in this book it could have just been a short story. Dont read it... wasted hours of my life.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2011

    Grim and addicting

    This is an interesting and addicting read. There are many characters to follow which keeps the story moving well and thickens the plot. The authors deals with many taboos that society tends to ignore. It was hard to put down. All in all a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    Have read all three of her books and find consuming. Stayed up

    Have read all three of her books and find consuming. Stayed up way too late finishing this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012

    Not the Doctor's wife.....

    It was a good read. However, I could not help but compare it to the "The Doctor's wife" (by the same author), which is one of my top 5 books of all time.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    I was bored out of my mind...

    ...and yet I slogged through it because I hate quitting on a book. I was especially disappointed in how each story line seemed separate from the whole; it seemed to me that the author closed her eyes, crossed her fingers, and tossed a bunch of people into the mix and hoped they'd stick together cohesively. She was successful sometimes, but there are just too many voices in this book. It's too bad...I think the idea was solid and this could have been a fabulous read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    Not my Favorite book

    I found this book to be lacking in substance.
    I loved the characters and the idea but in the end I closed the book very dissapointed.
    I wanted so much more! Was there a higher purpose a message for people but I got nothing.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Deep & Meaningful

    This book is thought provoking and gut wrenching all at the same time. The angst that families go through trying to find their identity's in a society that doesn't always accept "different". It is a complex and satisfying read, the characters are well developed and you really get a sense of what these people are going through. A very "human" tale and a great addition to your bookshelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2010

    It was okay...

    I thought this book would be good after reading the back. It kinda lost my interist after the begining. I loved the beging so much, if only the rest of the book was as intreging as the begining.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    I had high expectations after the phenomenal "The Doctor's Wife", which was an outstanding read. Unfortunatly "Somebody Else's Daughter" began quite interesting though, but after 80 pages I lost interest completely and quit the book. Discriptions of rich New England people's lifes were absolutely nothing for me and I was no longer interested to know the outcome of the story. I am really sorry for the money I wasted on this boring book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Somebody's Elses Daughter

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I loved the ending and the story was written well enough that it kept my interest because I couldn't wait to see how it turned out. From the very beginning I was involved with the characters each of whom were special and unique. I enjoy reading but it has to be something that gets my attention and keeps it---and this book did. I purchased it after reading just the back cover and am glad I did.

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  • Posted September 18, 2009

    Exciting and Provacative

    This was a very interesting read. I read the entire book from start to finish over the course of a weekend. The characters surprised me and their problems felt real. I recommend this for book clubs and for parents of teens.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    An okay read, IMO

    It started out really great but as it went on it wasn't what I expected and I really wasn't wild out the ending. It seemed like it was a big build up for a big let down.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    Boring Until The End...

    This book was not good until the last 20 pages. The book took too long to get to the point. I felt there were too many breaks in the story when detailing the past of each character. The ending was very dramatic and action packed. If it was not for the ending, the book would have been a total let down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2009

    For the most part it's good

    For the most part the book is a good read. However, some parts should of been left out. The author gave the reader detailed descriptions of teenage sexual experiences. I felt those descriptions should of not been written in the book at all. The storyline pics up pace along the way and the ending is worth the read.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    Smart Thriller

    This was a tough, exhilerating, unusual thriller that gained speed and momentum toward the end. It was a very different sort of book, very interesting characters, a lot of darkness, but ultimately very gripping. I highly recommend this novel.

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  • Posted June 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Huge Disappointment

    I am sorry to say I was less than impressed with this story, it had such a good base line and so much potential, but I felt the story drag on and on, with only the ending being remotely exciting. It was as if she was outlining all of the characters before telling the story. All of her characters were very interesting and real, and I did enjoy them, but as a whole the story was disappointing.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A good tale

    In the Berkshires, headmaster Jack Heath hires former drug addict Nate Gallagher to teach at his Pioneer School. Jack's wife Maggie was a classmate of Nate.

    Each has an agenda that sent them to Western Massachusetts. Jack had to start over after his reputation was trashed at his last academic stop. Maggie tries to be the dutiful wife though she hates her abusive womanizing spouse. Finally Nate wants to see his daughter Willa, whom he and his girlfriend gave away seventeen years ago when they were hippie addicts to Candace and Pioneer School president Joe Golding to raise; Willa attends the school. Joe hides from the school board that he produces skin flicks while Candace is a former porn actress.

    Nate admits to himself teenage Willa seems adjusted even as she is beginning to experience sexually experiment with failing student Teddy Squire, who suffers from dyslexia. All hell breaks loose when Teddy receives a DVD starring Candace. Maggie has had enough of the abuse, and a local hooker wants money for silence or she will expose her school clients.

    Elizabeth Brundage comparatively explores the lives of several people who seem so different on the surface, but deep down come across quite similar. Money can provide a bit of public polish, but the tarnish will remain privately below the surface. Although too many major events occur almost simultaneously, fans will relish this homage to Thomas Carlyle with a reflective look at peeling away the clothing to glimpse at the inner soul of the ensemble cast.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    Compelling Read

    I spent the weekend reading this. It's a novel about a group of characters whose lives interconnect in a small town in the Berkshires. There are aspects that make it a psychological thriller, and yet it's also a literary novel. The author touches upon a lot of difficult subjects. This could make a good selection for a book group, because there are many fascinating topics to discuss.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    The book starts out with Nate, the drug addicted father and Cat, the even more addicted mother and girlfriend. Cat gives birth to Willa. When she is a few months old they realize that can't care for her even though they love her. They are both young and addicted to drugs. They decide to give Willa up for private adoption. As one of the conditions to the adoption they drive Willa from San Francisco to Massachusettes. The couple is the Goldings and they are a wealthy couple. Shortly after handing Willa over to them Cat dies of Aids in their driveway.<BR/><BR/>After handing Willa over and dealing with Cat's death Nate sits in the car and writes a leter to Willa in hopes that the Goldings will give to her on her 16th birthday.<BR/><BR/>The book picks up sixteen years later in the same town, Berkshire. All the families are connected to the prep school, Pioneer. Nate who has turned is live around has returned to Berkshire as the new teacher and struggling writer. He discovers Willa is in his writting class.<BR/><BR/>We discover that the Goldings are a wealthy family who have built their fortune on a secret profession. The head master jack Heath lives a dangerous life. All the characters lives start to come together in this small town and slowly all the secrets are revealed. Some of the secrets are good and some prove to be deadly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2008

    Teen parents

    Two teenage heroin addicts give birth to a baby girl. The mother tells the boy they have to put the baby up for adoption so she doesn¿t grow up poor. They do. The mother dies after handing the child over to the adopted mother. The father, years later, gets his life together and becomes a teacher in his child¿s school. The school¿s principle is a rapist and he and his wife kill his victims. This was not a page-turner for me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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