Dana Reinhardt,
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life
(Wendy Lamb, 2006)

This "brief chapter" depicts several months in the life of adopted teen Simone. She's an atheist and an activist living with an ACLU-lawyer mom and a Mr. Mom political cartoonist dad, as well as a perfect star-athlete younger brother. This all-American family questions authority and eats cous cous at dinner. Simone has always known she was adopted, but never pushed the issue any further.

Then the bombshell drops -- Simone's birth mother calls and leaves a phone number. Simone is surprised at how firmly her parents encourage her to reach out to a woman she knows only as Rivka.

Rivka was raised in a Hassidic Jewish family and put her baby up for adoption after giving birth at age 16. The offspring of that devoutly Orthodox family ends up living with liberal parents who encourage her to crusade for the separation of church and state. Simone's experience is eye-opening, revealing that the world offers no simple black-and-white answers, even for atheists. Judaism is much more than a religion, and the chance to bond with Rivka opens up a new world of lineage and cultural tradition for young Simone.

Reinhardt's debut novel presents dozens of strands relating to religion, civil liberties, tradition and the meaning of family. The plot should serve to remind teens to be open about lifestyles different from their own. However, the execution is merely satisfactory, so this isn't an A-list book. Plot developments are touching but visible from pages away, and the book wraps up with a predictable warm-fuzzy of an ending.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
16 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.