From Publishers Weekly
When Rebecca, the narrator of most of Dunmore's fine, almost unbearably sad eighth novel (after 2003's Ice Cream), shares a flat with Joe in London, she begins to enjoy the pleasures of friendship and family for the first time in her life: she was abandoned as a baby and adopted by a couple remarkably unsuitable for parenting. Joe, a historian interested in Stalin, introduces her to simple pleasures and shows her that loneliness need not be permanent. And it's through Joe that she meets Adam, a neonatologist who becomes her husband and the father of their daughter, Ruby ("For the first time, I was tied to someone by blood"). Given the book's title, Ruby's death is no surprise (though it's still heartbreaking without being melodramatic), and Dunmore plumbs the consequences of loss: How does one mourn, and then accept, the unacceptable? Numbed by Ruby's death, Rebecca drifts away from Adam, finding diversion in a job as an assistant to a hotelier, Mr. Damiano; Adam buries himself in his work with premature babies. Ambitiously, Dunmore complements this tragic narrative with two other stories, one autobiographical, told by Mr. Damiano, about growing up in a circus where his parents were trapeze artists, and one told by Joe, a work of fiction set during WWI about a man and a woman who could be his and Rebecca's ancestors. Rebecca's own story isn't told linearly, so these narrative asides aren't as distracting as they sound. And they are critical to the author's main theme: that narrative is a key to understanding and to acceptance. This is that rare novel, an intensely emotional, fiercely intelligent story, fiction with the power to offer redemption.
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*Starred Review* When Rebecca's and Adam's daughter, Ruby, dies in a playground accident, their lives are forever changed. In Dunmore's elegant hands, such a simple and sorrowful synopsis is transformed into an elegiac tale of unbearable suffering and unexpected redemption as lyrical and lush as life itself. As an abandoned infant and unwanted adoptee, Rebecca spun romantic stories of her past to compensate for the meager facts of her existence. Only in her role as Ruby's mother did she find her true identity, and when that vanishes, it falls to her old friend, Joe, a writer, and her enigmatic boss, Mr. Damiano, to present her with new stories that will allow her to once more create a life without Ruby. Dunmore portrays Rebecca's palpable grief with a poignant and powerful empathy, an anguish so strong that it envelops the reader in its enormity. Yet Rebecca's story is one to be savored, one whose beauty is haunting and whose message is hopeful. Told with abundant grace and exquisite sensitivity, this is a book to fall in love with, to hold in your heart like a cherished memory. Carol HaggasCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved