The Third Child

The Third Child

3.0 2
by Marge Piercy
     
 

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Under her mother's constant scrutiny and lost in the shadow of her famous senator father, Melissa is the third child in the politically prominent Dickenson family, where ambition comes first and Melissa often comes last. In college, she meets Blake, a man of mixed race and apparently unknown parentage. His adoptive parents are lawyers whose defense of death-row

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Overview

Under her mother's constant scrutiny and lost in the shadow of her famous senator father, Melissa is the third child in the politically prominent Dickenson family, where ambition comes first and Melissa often comes last. In college, she meets Blake, a man of mixed race and apparently unknown parentage. His adoptive parents are lawyers whose defense of death-row cases in the past brought them head-to-head with Melissa's father when he was the governor of Pennsylvania.

While Melissa and Blake's attraction is immediate and fiery, a dangerous secret lurks beneath their relationship -- one that could destroy them ... and their families.

Provocative and beautifully written, and dealing with themes of love, honesty, identity, and the consequences of ambition, The Third Child is a remarkable page-turner.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A privileged, lonely 19-year-old takes refuge in a doomed love affair in this 16th novel by Piercy (Three Women, etc.), a biting, contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet and an acidic commentary on Washington political culture. Melissa Dickinson is the neglected, needy third child of Republican senator Dick Dickinson and his cold, scheming wife, Rosemary. In her first year at Wesleyan, she meets Blake Ackerman, a classmate who is both dark-skinned and Jewish, qualities sure to distress her parents. Melissa is ripe for the attention Blake lavishes on her after he discovers that she is Dick Dickinson's daughter. He tells Melissa he's the adopted son of Si and Nadine Ackerman, liberal criminal lawyers whose defense of death row cases has been a thorn in Dickinson's side for years, but doesn't immediately inform her that he's also the mixed-race son of Toussaint Parker, a convicted "cop-killer" whose execution Dickinson, a former Pennsylvania governor, failed to stay. They fall into an intensely symbiotic relationship fueled by sexual compatibility ("Sometimes she felt as if they were rooting, digging through each other's bodies trying to sink deeper and deeper within") as well as by Melissa's resentment of her emotionally inaccessible family ("she had wanted to punish them for their long disregard of her") and Blake's desire for vengeance, which includes hacking into Melissa's parents' computer to find evidence that might destroy "King Richard's" career, but ends up destroying much more. Piercy's explosive resolution is rather abrupt and over the top, but it affirms that the most treacherous traps are those set by ignorance and innocence. (Dec. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Melissa is the third of four children of a glamorous political powerhouse couple, movie-star gorgeous Sen. Dick Dickinson and his perfectly elegant, ruthlessly ambitious wife, Rosemary. Living in the shadow of her preferred siblings-Merilee, the beautiful, smart, older sister; handsome heir apparent Richard IV; and the too-cute "baby," 15-year-old Billy-Melissa is nearly paralyzed with typical teenage insecurities exacerbated by the unforgiving glare of public life. Accepted into Wesleyan, she revels in the anonymity of life as a college freshman, but not for long. Melissa falls in love with Blake, utterly unacceptable to her family with his dark skin, terrifying secret, and adoptive parents, who just happen to be political enemies of Melissa's father. As their affair deepens, Melissa's blind acquiescence to Blake's increasingly sinister intrusion into her family's lives trumpets an impending tragedy that will surprise no one. Piercy, a compulsively readable storyteller, disappoints with her reliance on stereotypical characters and on modern fiction's literary device du jour-plot resolution at gunpoint. For Piercy fans who employ a powerfully willing suspension of disbelief. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/03.]-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The message of the prolific Piercy's latest (Sleeping With Cats: A Memoir, 2002, etc.) seems to be that conservative politicians make bad parents as well as bad leaders. After a stint as governor of Pennsylvania, Dick Dickenson has begun his first term as a senator and has eyes on the White House. If Dick has the requisite charm and charisma, his wife Rosemary, a cross between Nancy Reagan and Lady Macbeth (or Hillary Clinton), has the brains. Neither has much interest in third child Melissa. When younger, she tried to win her parents' attention by excelling, but by the time she begins her freshman year at Wesleyan, she merely wants to get below her mother's critical radar. In a nonfiction-writing class where she composes a revealing essay about feeling neglected by her parents, she meets Blake Ackerman, adopted son of anti-death penalty lawyers from Philadelphia. Melissa's brief volunteer stint as an inner-city tutor while in prep school has raised her racial sensitivity, so she doesn't care that Blake is Jewish and part African-American, both no-no's in the Dickensons' WASPy world. As Melissa and Blake's affair intensifies, Melissa is far too interested in her sexual awakening to pay attention to hints that Blake's interest in her father is an obsession. Blake talks in abstract, idealistic terms, but his real agenda is revenge: for political reasons, his father was wrongly prosecuted-and executed-for a police killing while Dick was governor. Melissa, besotted with Blake and resentful of her parents, unwittingly helps get the goods on Dick's political/financial wheeling-dealing for an investigative reporter. When her parents forbid her to see Blake and threaten to pull her out ofWesleyan, she marries him. Then the real nightmare begins. Blake remains an arresting enigma: Does he really love Melissa or is he using her? The rest of the supporting characters are cardboard cutouts. In all: simplistic politics, convoluted plot, and a heroine too whiny and self-centered to pity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061970061
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
242,403
File size:
1 MB

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