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Being Lara: A Novel Paperback – March 13, 2012
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From the Back Cover
What other explanation could there be? With her dark complexion and kinky hair, so unlike her fair-skinned parents, Lara knew she was different. At eight she finally learned the word "adopted." Twenty-two years later, a stranger arrives as she blows out the candles on her thirtieth birthday cake—a woman in a blue-and-black head tie who also claims the title "Lara’s mother."
Lara, always in control, now finds her life slipping free of the stranglehold she's had on it. Unexpected, dangerously unfamiliar emotions are turning Lara's life upside down, pulling her between Nigeria and London, forcing her to confront the truth about her past. But if she's brave enough to embrace the lives of her two mothers, she may discover once and for all what it truly means to be Lara.
About the Author
Lola Jaye was born and raised in London, England, where she still makes her home; she has also lived briefly in Nigeria. By the Time You Read This—Lola's first U.S. novel—was published by HarperCollins in 2009. Her inspirational essay "Reaching for the Stars: How You Can Make Your Dreams Come True," in which she charted her journey from foster child to author, was released in 2009 as part of the U.K.'s wildly popular Quick Reads program.
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Top customer reviews
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The book was rather cliche and cheesy. The writing was not good, and at times it was downright hard to follow what the author was trying to say. There were quite a few grammatical "errors" or just incorrect ways of writing. The characters were more like sketches and I lacked the ability to empathize with most of them. There were also entire sections that were italicized and that was annoying. And some of the flashbacks were confusing in terms of the time sequence. I felt that the book was entirely too long and included mundane and unnecessary scenes.
One main issue I had with this book is that it didn't really go into racial identity which seemed odd for a book about identity issues. Also the light-skinned girl on the cover really bothers me because the main character is supposed to be 100% dark-skinned Nigerian. I don't understand writing a book about a black girl being adopted by white parents but then shying away from the subject. And I know that the author doesn't get to choose (or approve?) the cover but it just further ruined it for me.
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The remainder of this review contains SPOILERS.
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The questions/issues I had that really annoyed me about this book were as follows:
- Why (and how?!) did the birth mom walk right in on Lara's 30th birthday party? If she really cared for her daughter that seems like an awful way to try to introduce herself into her life!
- The fact that the father hid the birth mother's attempts to contact Lara-- and many facts about her existence and Lara's origin as well-- didn't sit right with me at all. I am not sure what adoptive parents are supposed to do in this situation as in my opinion if someone is unable or unwilling to care for their children then they should give up all rights to them and not expect to have any contact with them. On the other hand at some point it becomes the child's right to know about their origin and their birth parents. So I think that at least by the time Lara was 18-- or even earlier, when she started to be curious and ask about her birth mother (at age 10)-- then she should have been given the information from her adoptive parents. No wonder she was confused and had identity issues growing up.
- The fact that the maternal grandmother disowned Lara's adoptive mom, and Lara, just because of the color of her skin (and in general the way she and the rest of the family treated her daughter the entire time) was awful and I don't think she should have had any right to just come back at the end of the story and enjoy her now-adult granddaughter. I would have been livid if I was Lara and I honestly think that Lara's adoptive mom is pretty Fed up to want a mother like that back in her life and her daughter's life. The entire family dynamic of all of these people seemed really messed up to me.
- I think this book couldn't decide whether to be a serious book about adoption and identity or a cliche chick lit/romance book. The relationship between Tyler and Lara was eye-rolling but I do get that it was supposed to show her growing as a character and being able to finally trust someone.
- The relationship with the friend Shelly or whatever her name was was well done but also cliche at times. I guess that's one part of the book that seemed realistic and that I enjoyed reading. But towards the end it veered into unrealistic lesson-learning speech time that was not enjoyable.
- I could empathize with Yoma, the birth mother, the most and I think it's because the story in Nigeria was so well-told and also because I don't think she ever got a lot of choices in the matter (unlike Lara's adoptive parents and grandparents and even Lara herself.) I didn't always agree with what Yoma did or how she went about it (especially the 30th birthday party scene in the beginning that I mentioned above) but I could GET it.
Lara's life spirals out of control on her thirtieth birthday. It's dark, she's blowing the candles on her cake, and when the lights come on and she looks up she sees a strange woman who is staring back at her. The woman is a stranger and yet Lara feels a connection to her; like somehow she's known her for her whole life. The woman yells out Omolara and all of a sudden Lara can't breath. When the woman tells her that she is her mother Lara knows that she has to leave right away. As she is driving and later at home her thoughts are jumbled and she is so confused. All the years that Lara had wished her birth mother would show up and she didn't - why now? Why now when Lara doesn't need her to anymore? Or does she?
Since learning she was adopted Lara has always struggled with not feeling good enough or worthy enough. She has always had trouble with friendships except for her best friend Sandi and as for relationships with men those always seem to go bad before they get anywhere because Lara can't stop feeling like the men are going to leave her anyway so she'll put a stop to the relationship before they can. To ease her anxieties, from a young girl Lara begins to show obsessive tendencies of tapping and counting. Now she has a wonderful man, Tyler, in her life but already she feels he is tiring of her and she feels herself pulling away before it's too late and she gets hurt.
At first Lara refuses to see her birth mother Yomi but Yomi doesn't give up so easily and the next time she shows up she brings Gran who Lara can't help but love. Slowly things begin to thaw between mother and daughter as Lara learns more about why her mother gave her up. Lara also learns about her family, her people, and culture and she realizes that she has the best of two worlds. She has parents who love her and that she loves and also a family in Nigeria that love her and all she has to do is open her heart to it.
This is a great story that had me smiling and even teary eyed. It is a realistic portrayal of adoption and its far reaching consequences on those involved. It realistically shows how someone who realizes her family isn't quite what is perceived as normal learns to deal with that and hopefully find a way to move on with their lives being comfortable in who they are. I enjoyed the characters in the book and I really liked the author's straight forward writing style. Being Lara is ultimately about hope, love, and accepting people for who they are. I loved it!
Upon her 30th birthday, she finally meets her birth mother, and feels an immediate connection. Though she fights this feeling, she feels herself drawn in by her biological mother. Lara is forced to reconcile her life as an adopted child.
As we see Lara come to terms with who she is, we also see her come to understand both of the important women in her life, her mothers. As she learns about her past and her mothers, she learns she must allow herself to open up, in order to find understanding, peace, embrace who she is and who she is to become.
This emotional and interesting novel looks at adoption from three distinct women's viewpoints: daughter, biological mother, and adoptive mother. It is a journey of self-discovery, and also of motherhood.
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