The plot of Anna Quindlen's novel Blessings
is constructed on the same model as E.T.
: adorable orphaned creature is found by unlikely caregiver who against his or her better judgment falls in love with the little beast, while all the while, the authorities loom in the background, threatening to take the foundling away. In Quindlen's book, however, the foundling in question isn't an alien, but a squalling baby left at Blessings, a vast estate owned by an ancient, crabby matriarch named Lydia Blessing. By a fluke, the baby's parents abandon her by the garage rather than at the front door, and so she is discovered by Skip Cuddy, Lydia Blessing's newly hired handyman, who happens to be an ex-con. The plot proceeds from there in fairly E.T.
-like fashion, minus the Reese's Pieces and flying bicycles. Skip, Lydia, and the baby they name Faith form a surprisingly loving and sustaining, albeit temporary, family unit.
Quindlen wrings a remarkable amount of pathos from this somewhat simple setup. One of her strengths as a writer is the quietness she brings to her story; family secrets of paternity and lost love are buried deep in the narrative, hidden in descriptive paragraphs where they subtly zing us with their news. Her ear is good, too: we believe Skip and his bad-boy friends when they're shooting the breeze. Best of all is her flair for observation. The book wouldn't work at all if she couldn't make us feel Skip and Lydia's amazement at the small joys of a baby ("The deep pleat in the fat at her elbow made her arms look muscled"). Here is a book that lives up to its title. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
Quindlen's novel of redemption and second chances is given a warm, sympathetic reading by Allen. Skip Cuddy is one of life's losers: abandoned by his parents as a child and railroaded by so-called "friends" into a crime that wasn't his fault as an adult. But he's content with his new job as caretaker of Blessings, the estate of elderly, isolated Lydia Blessing. When a frightened unwed teenager leaves her newborn by Skip's garage apartment (instead of the estate's front door, as planned), Skip finds a new lease on life in taking care of the infant. And when Lydia discovers the baby and agrees to help Skip raise her, she too finds new meaning in life, as well as a mutually rewarding friendship with Skip. (Of course, eventually the baby's mother wants her back.) Allen's voice is filled with compassion, and she does a fine job differentiating the characters. Particularly memorable are the voices of elderly Lydia Blessing; Korean maid Nadine; and Chris, a sleazy, manipulative friend of Skip's.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.