Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dorothy Koomson - That Girl From Nowhere

Clemency Smittson was adopted as a baby and the only connection she has to her birth mother is a cardboard box hand-decorated with butterflies. Now an adult, Clem decides to make a drastic life change and move to Brighton, where she was born. Clem has no idea that while there she'll meet someone who knows all about her butterfly box and what happened to her birth parents.
As the tangled truths about her adoption and childhood start to unravel, a series of shocking events cause Clem to reassess whether the price of having contact with her birth family could be too high to pay...

Comment: My incursions to my local library never have a plan. I might be looking for books within the genres I usually read but with an exception here and there, I never go thinking I'll need to find a specific book. Besides, my local library, of course has books in Portuguese and it's not a central library so the choices aren't as wide as I'd like. 
I had never felt interested in this author but some of her books were int he shelf and I thought why not trying one, who knows if I'll like it. I picked this one and, according to some friends who have read practically all her books, this isn't one of the best. What luck....

In this book we meet Clemency Smittson, better known as Smitty, when she moves back to Brighton with her mother, after her father died and left them both mourning.
Smitty has a complicated relationship with her mother, since she was adopted, but they love each other and Smitty won't let her mother alone with her memories.
Smitty works as a jeweler restorer, she also does her own thing and through work she meets an older lady at a nursing home who says she is the spiting image of the home's director. When she does meet that woman, she can't ignore their resemblance and although her personal and sentimental life is a mess, Smitty can't help but feel curious about the woman who, all indicates, is her younger sister. This is the beginning of a new journey for Smitty and those surrounding her...

The premise of this story is quite appealing. I'm not adverse to family dramas and woman's fiction types of plots but they can quickly go towards boring paths instead of focusing on the character's development. I feared this here but the fact the heroine is black and her adoptive mother is white offered a POV I was curious about. Not that s should matter but real life tells us it's not always so and I imagined the author might pick on that. While she did, and the finished work was well done, I didn't really like Smitty's choices when it came to her love life and that affected my opinion of her.

The focus of this novel is clearly on Smitty. She is a 30 something woman, she has stability in her work (I didn't see this as an obvious thing, though) and she is thinking of opening her own business one day. Through the novel we get small flashback entries about moments in her life that have some importance to where she is at now and she comes across as being a cautious but smart woman, someone who has felt put down but some not only because of the color of her skin but that was a big issue, considering her adoptive parents being different from her.
As a little girl she didn't understand why others would look at her differently but while growing up some toxic opinions shaped her vision of things.

I'd say this book being about Smitty and her search for understanding who she is supposed to be, she should be the most captivating character we could find here. I liked how quiet she was, how she felt about what others said about her but she was not flashy in her responses, she only wanted peace and caring, like any other person would.
I think it's human she would want to know about her biological family once she discovers them. I also get it that she wouldn't want to be overly excited about it in consideration to the woman who raised her. I think the drama surrounding this aspect of Smitty's life was well done, was one vision of it might be like for someone to fight the opposing feelings adopted people perhaps have when they can share both sides of their family.

I think the whole plot and development regarding Smitty's family life and how out of control some things seemed to be for her was well done by the author. I think the drama and conflicts were believable in relation to what she was facing. I think the feelings she had over the discovery and how she was made to feel about that were done well enough to make readers think.
In the Portuguese cover, the dress is red...
The end, therefore, was a little too simple and quickly fixed, considering the interesting emotional issues Smitty went though.

However, (besides the rushed ending) there was another big detail I wasn't a fan of. Smitty has a complicated love life, she is separated with her boyfriend Seth and throughout the novel he becomes a regular character as well as Tyler, a man Smitty knows in the first pages since he works in a cafe she starts frequenting. To classify this a love triangle perhaps isn't the best way but technically I think it is. I just didn't like Smitty had to have this in her life even if in reality people behave like this. I also didn't like to know she (and another character) claimed being adopted made them look for affection in several sexual encounters. I apologize, I can recognize this as a realistic coping mechanism of sorts but in romances it just puts me off that characters feel like having sex with many people as a substitute for emotional stability. I didn't like Smitty behaved like this in her past.

The final resolution to her love life dilemmas was also silly and avoidable. I mean...some segments were really unnecessary if one thinks about what the author chose for Smitty in the end. 
This aspect of the story really made me bring the grade down.

All in all, many good details in this book, intriguing characterization and development and enough emotional content to make me curious about other books of the author.
This one just stayed half way because of elements I feel were not to my personal appreciation.
Grade: 6/10

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