Pretending to Dance

Diane Chamberlain
Jan 19, 2016

It turns out that Molly Arnett is a good liar. For years, Molly has told a lie that could destroy every bit of happiness she has with the man she adores. Pretending to Dance is a story told in two distinct time periods in Molly's life. The story starts in 2014, in San Diego, California, where Molly and her spouse, Aidan James, are meeting with their social worker in preparation for becoming adoptive parents. After losing their birth daughter, Molly had to have a hysterectomy, and that loss has led to an adoption process that for Molly is frightening. Molly herself had an adoptive mother and a birth mother who lived on the same family compound, called Morrison Ridge, with her beloved father Graham.

The story jumps to 1990, when Molly is a fourteen-year-old girl enduring the "worst year of her life." Her father, Graham, suffers from multiple sclerosis and has reached a point in his disease where he requires constant assistance. Graham is a therapist who has written several books on  "pretend therapy," otherwise known as Cognitive Behavioral Self-Intervention. In her fourteen-year-old mind, her father is content and happy with his life and, with Molly's help, will finish his last book before he retires.

The story continues in alternating chapters where we learn why Molly's "worst summer ever" lead to twenty-four years away from Morrison Ridge and her much loved family. What events caused her to distance herself from the past and build up a wall of secrets and lies? How did her fourteen-year-old self further sever her familial ties? And now, years later, how will Molly finally make peace with a past that could destroy her future?

I'm a big fan of Ms. Chamberlain, and three stars is the lowest rating I've ever given one of her books. So I encourage you to try her book Necessary Lies. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, it tells the story of two young women, Jane and Ivy, who--while seemingly worlds apart--are both haunted by tragedy. When thrown together, they must ask themselves how can you know that what you believe is right, even when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

Reviewed by Library Staff