Review of “Family Tree” by Barbara Delinsky

Barbara Delinksy’s Family Tree touched my heart when I originally read it several years ago. I recently thought it was time re-read it. Family Tree is not only an excellent read any day, but it would make a great book to introduce sensitive family and race issues to students and in book clubs. It has me rethinking family relationships, genetics and choices we make in life in general. Let me give you a brief introduction and I will come back to this topic.

The main character in Family Tree is Dana Clarke, she is a down to earth woman who is trusting, laidback and wants unconditional love from her husband. She is an interior decorator and she is an avid knitter, which works out great because her grandmother (mother’s mother) Ellie Jo Joseph owns, The Stitchery, a knitting store. Dana is into family traditions like using furniture and other items from her husbands’ family to decorate her home which works out great because her husband’s family has tons of old furniture, portraits and who knows what else. Because of her own personality and interests, Dana is someone I would like as a friend.

Since we are talking about her interest in family, I should tell you about her family. Her mother died when she was five and she never knew her father. Her parents meet in college and her mother dropped out and went back home without telling Jack Jones that he was going to be a father. Dana has seen her father’s face in a photo and she knows his name, but that’s all she knows. Her husband, Hugh Clarke, a lawyer, comes from a wealthy family that can trace their ancestors to the Mayflower.

Family Ties begins with Dana being nine months pregnant and almost immediately the baby is born. Dana, unlike her mother, is married. Her husband’s parents Eaton and Dorothy Clarke are eagerly awaiting the birth of their grandbaby so they can brag to their friends at country club and the university where her father-in-law is a historian, researcher and author. By the way, Eaton Clarke has created a book that is due to come out soon after the baby is born about his ancestors.

So I’ve set up some of the characters so let me tell you a little bit more. Dana and Hugh Clarke, the young wealthy, white couple I’ve been telling you about get a surprise when they see their beautiful African American daughter. They were both present in the room when she was born so there was no switching of babies and there were no test tubes involved in conception so how in the world does that happen? Dana loves her immediately and the color of her skin means nothing, but Hugh needs know how this happened. He loves his daughter, but for some reason he must know who was the African American in Dana’s family tree.

Before they get home there are rumors fly about an affair on Dana’s part which really hurts her feelings. A good friend of the couple lives next door and he is African American so that is who the rumors are concentrating on. Hugh’s parents do not welcome their newest grandchild because she couldn’t be a Clarke, not with that skin color and that hair.

Since I first read this book, I have often wondered if I had given birth to a child that came out a different race than I expected, Would I react like Dana and love the child unconditionally or would I be like Hugh wanting to know what happened before I truly committed myself to the child? I believe I would be like Dana, my child is my child. Who knows who got together with whom way back when? Does it really matter? I think a healthy child of any race would be a blessing.

There all kinds of trust issues between Dana and Hugh, between Hugh and his extended family, between Hugh and David (his African American neighbor). Family Tree got me thinking about how my choices and choices by my parents, grandparents etc. can make a huge impact on my life. This book brings up race issues, family secrets and trust issues in general. Do you see why, I think that this would be a good book club pick and/or an assignment for students?

Family Tree is an awesome and powerful book by Barbara Delinsky. Even though I’ve written quite a bit about the story line, I have not created a spoiler so go ahead and read the book. You will be glad you did.

Other book reviews by Genie Walker:

The Search by Nora Roberts

Point Blank by Catherine Coulter

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux

Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz