Thursday, April 05, 2012

Family: Isn't It About Love?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lara Reid thinks her family is just like every other one in the U.K.  Her father always tells her she's special, she just assumes that's the reason people gawk.  Turns out, that's not it at all.  According to the playground taunts, Lara's family doesn't "match" and everyone knows families are supposed to match.  Anyone with functioning eyes can see the one thing Lara's never really understood—a Caucasian couple like Barry and Pat Reid could never have produced a child with Lara's brown skin and bushy, black hair.  Realizing the truth in her classmates' insinuations, Lara comes to the only logical conclusion: she's an alien.

It's not until she's 8 that Lara learns her parents adopted her five years ago from an orphanage in faraway Nigeria.  Africa's just a place she hears mentioned on the telly every so often and Lara's got much more pressing concerns at home in Essex, so she doesn't worry about her mysterious past.  Much.  It stays in the back of her mind as she matures into an efficient, successful woman, but it's not until the day her birth mother shows up in England that Lara's forced to confront the past that has always haunted her present.  Caught between two cultures, two families, two histories, Lara must wrestle with all the truths, secrets and mysteries to answer the most important question of all:  Who is Lara Reid?

Anyone who knows about my beautiful, bi-racial daughter, adopted a few years ago from the bayous of Louisiana, will understand why I found Being Lara by Lola Jaye such a compelling novel.  I would have read the book based on the cover alone (when my little girl saw the model on the front, she exclaimed, "It's me, Mommy!"), but the plot line also intrigued me.  With themes of transracial adoption, racial/cultural identity, family, and other issues I ponder every day, I knew this story would speak straight to my heart.  And it did.  I sympathized with Lara, in all her confusion and vulnerability, as well as with her two mothers, both of whom narrate some sections of the story.  While I don't necessarily agree with how the Reids handled the whole adoption thing, I recognized all their feelings of anxiety, doubt, guilt and fear, as I've experienced them all since the day I decided to become an adoptive mother.  As for the actual story, it's fast-paced, well-told, realistic (except, perhaps, for the rather tidy end) and heartwarming without being sappy.  I'm not sure I buy the idea that Lara didn't notice her family was different until age 8 (after all, my 3-year-old will look at a picture of Disney princesses and identify herself as Tiana and me as Belle), but that's a small matter, really.  From the lovely cover (I need the number of the hairstylist responsible for that gorgeous hair!) to the important (and very relevant to me) themes to the globetrotting storyline (just try not to be affected by Jaye's descriptions of Nigeria, a place she once lived), I liked Being Lara a whole lot.  It reminded me that families aren't about "matching," they're about love.      

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language (2 F-bombs, plus milder invectives) and mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Being Lara from the generous folks at William Morrow (an imprint of Harper Collins) and TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!     


  1. Sounds like a wonderful read! Thanks for being on the tour.

  2. As someone who is interested in adoption, I should totally get this book. Too many books I need to read!


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