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The English American: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Based on her semi-autobiographical one-woman show of the same title, Larkin's debut novel takes a comedic but heartfelt look at issues of identity, heredity and self-acceptance. Pippa Dunn—British, 28 and living with her sister in West London—loves her adoptive parents dearly, but has rarely felt at home with the primness and very British emotional restraint with which she was raised, as her funny, anxious narration demonstrates. When Pippa discovers that her birth mother, Billie, is an American (from Georgia, no less) she feels compelled to travel to the U.S. to meet the the sweet, understanding, empathetic ethereal mother she's always imagined. Not surprisingly, both Billie and Pippa's birth father, Walt, fail to live up to her imagined ideals. Although Larkin's premise leads to worthy reflections in Pippa's winning voice, awkward attempts to marry the birth-mother search to a conventional romantic comedy plot are less successful. Through a midbook e-mail exchange, we learn that Pippa met her soul mate, Nick (now a banker in Singapore), in a London park seven years before, but wasn't ready to feel love. Nick the banker-cum-painter is far too tortured and emotive to be believable, and the ensuing romantic revelations are predictable. Pippa, however, is a complex, compelling character—truly an amalgam of her heredity and her environment—and readers will root for her as she uncovers her roots and finds herself. (Mar.)
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Despite loving her English mum and dad dearly, Pippa Dunn—adopted as an infant from America—never feels she fits into her family. Her fear of abandonment has her looking for the wrong men, in order to leave them before they leave her. At the age of 28, Pippa goes to America seeking her birth parents: beautiful, artistic Billie and her married lover, Walt, who gave up their daughter for the sake of their relationship. The first blush of parental love is intoxicating, with Pippa seeing her traits in others and feeling truly free to express herself. Then reality (Billie’s possessiveness, Walt’s evasiveness) sets in, and Pippa faces the issue of nature versus nurture. Pippa’s long-distance correspondent through all this is fellow adoptee Nick Devang, but her true source of support is right in front of her. A predictable romantic outcome is easily forgiven, given comedienne-actress-playwright Larkin’s vivid description of the obstacles facing adoptees who find their birth parents. Drawn from Larkin’s own life, this debut novel—like Pippa herself—is smart, funny, and utterly charming. --Michele Leber
Top customer reviews
When I first started the book I wasn't sure what to expect--a stand up comedian writing a book based on her stage act?--how is that going to work? But Larkin does a great job getting inside Pippa's head and using her voice to take the reader along on her journey. Pippa's honesty throughout her journey is enjoyable to read and funny, and is the thing that makes her so lovable.
And while this book is a little chick lit-ish, I really think its more of a coming of age story than the traditional chick lit, which is much more focused on chasing guys and dishing to friends. The book is really about Pippa finding herself, she just happens to find a guy or two along the way too. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants a fun, makes you smile as you drink your earl grey, read.