Quick review for a rather progressive read. I took my time with reading “Pretending to Dance” – wrapped up with its questions and building tension that told of a family that used to be close-knit but ended up falling apart. This is ultimately Molly’s coming of age story with grief over events that happened when she was a teenager. Told between the past and present, it sets itself up as a parallel story between Molly’s family with events that happened during a horrible summer and the present where Molly and her husband are about to adopt a child of their own.
I feel like this book built itself up with quite a bit of steam. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the story of Molly’s coming to terms and the parallel stories. I appreciated taking in talking points to some very heavy issues, such as assisted suicide, long term illness, grief over a loved one, and the deterioration of a family and coming to terms. But I feel the build up didn’t match the story in places – it was the uneven handling that threw me out of the story more than a few times. It’s definitely a tale that can spark pertinent discussions and with heavy tones, full of emotion and with the intimacy I’m used to reading about in Chamberlain’s works. However, I think the progression of it felt a bit uneven for much of the narrative, maybe building a little too long and with the anticipation only to end up not matching the momentum and swell of that build.
Molly’s a realistic character, even through her anger and bitterness towards her family for the events in this novel. I understood it, I even understood how and why she held onto it as long as she did. Many moments I felt Molly’s viewpoints were through tunnel vision, but I understood their root, especially when the truth revealed itself. I just wished that the story had been more evenly distributed. “Necessary Lies”, “The Silent Sister,” among other novels were able to take the intimate stories of the people in each of those novels and give them a little more balance for beginning, middle and end. This had too long of a beginning and middle before it reached the swell of the ending handed to the reader.
I enjoyed the audiobook for what it offered, but the story itself – while giving good talking points and showcasing some beautiful lines of emotion – didn’t quite make the connection I was hoping for.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.