Book Review: Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers…

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Blessings

Author: Anna Quindlen

Author’s web site:

Date: 2002

Publisher: Ballantine / Random House

Length: 284 pages

Quote: “People love the idea of a place with a name.”

“Blessing” is a real family name, and it’s also the name of the fictional family who named the fictional estate where this story takes place after themselves.

In the first scene of Blessings, two irresponsible teenagers sneak out to the Blessing manor to abandon a newborn baby. Hoping their child will not be traced back to them, they slither away without guessing how the baby will bring the four people living at Blessings together.

The four people are Lydia Blessing, the last of the direct line; Nadine, the housekeeper; Jennifer, Nadine’s daughter who sometimes helps with the chores; and Skip, or Charles, the groundskeeper. At the beginning of the story none of them likes or trusts the others much. By the end they’ll be a family, and Nadine’s husband and Lydia’s daughter will be part of the family too.

Love is definitely the theme of this story….but it’s strictly family love. Although Skip has reasons to like two young women characters, Quindlen refuses to carry the plot far enough forward in time to show us Skip “in love.”

Keeping the focus on family love does not, however, keep Quindlen from throwing in a male homosexual couple. This gratuitous piece of political correctness is too carefully contrived to be plausible, and serves to call attention to how carefully the whole story has been cast for maximum political correctness. If Quindlen’s purpose were merely to write a romance or a comedy, a p.c. cast would do no harm. Since she’s also trying to show us that a young man like Skip can be a good father, keeping the rest of the novel ultra-p.c. costs her some credibility; I feel that instead of reading a fictionalized version of something Quindlen’s actually seen, I’m reading a fictional propaganda piece where all the major pressure groups are “represented”–except Republicans.

This is unfortunate. We may never have met a young single man who enjoys being a foster father as much as Skip, or a rich old lady who’s as partial to young working-class people as Lydia, but we would have liked to believe that Quindlen has. We have, as the publisher promised in the blurbs on the jacket, heard real people talk like these characters. We’d like it if real people behaved like them, too.

Nevertheless, Blessings is a nice, cheerful, family-type story that seems appropriate for a post that’s scheduled to appear on Thanksgiving Day. Anna Quindlen is a living writer, which makes this a Fair Trade Book; if you send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, Quindlen or a charity of her choice will receive $1 per copy of her book. (If you wanted four copies, you’d send me $25 and Quindlen or her charity would get $4.)

Pumpkin image courtesy of Taliesin at Morguefile: