Blessings

Blessings

  • Publish Date: 2004-03-30
  • Binding: Mass Market Paperback
  • Author: Anna Quindlen
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Late one night, a teenage couple drives up to the big white clapboard home on the Blessing estate and leaves a box. In that instant, the lives of those who live and work there are changed forever. Skip Cuddy, the caretaker, finds a baby girl asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep the child . . . while Lydia Blessing, the matriarch of the estate, for her own reasons, agrees to help him. Blessings explores how the secrets of the past affect decisions and lives in the present; what makes a person or a life legitimate or illegitimate and who decides; and the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community. This is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the Pulitzer Prizewinning writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family. 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

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