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Book cover of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

by Dana Reinhardt

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 256
Paperback
ISBN: 9780375846915






Available to Buy

Overview of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

You can tell what really makes Simone different just by looking at her: she doesn't resemble anyone in her family. She's adopted. She's always known it, but she's never wanted to know anything about where she came from. She's happy with her family just as it is, thank you.
Then one day, Rivka calls, and Simone learns who her mother was—a 16-year-old, just like Simone. Who is Rivka? What does she want? Why is she calling now, after all these years? The answers lead Simone to deeper feelings of anguish and love than she has ever known and prompt her to question everything she has taken for granted about faith, the afterlife, and what it means to be a daughter.

Synopsis of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

Simone s starting her junior year in high school. Her mom s a lawyer for the ACLU, her dad s a political cartoonist, so she s grown up standing outside the organic food coop asking people to sign petitions for worthy causes. She s got a terrific younger brother and amazing friends. And she s got a secret crush on a really smart and funny guy who spends all of his time with another girl.

Then her birth mother contacts her. Simone s always known she was adopted, but she never wanted to know anything about it. She s happy with her family just as it is, thank you.

She learns who her birth mother was a 16-year-old girl named Rivka. Who is Rivka? Why has she contacted Simone? Why now? The answers lead Simone to deeper feelings of anguish and love than she has ever known, and to question everything she once took for granted about faith, life, the afterlife, and what it means to be a daughter.

Publishers Weekly

In a moving first novel, Reinhardt uses a sure but gentle hand to explore the relationship that develops between an adopted teen and her biological mother. Simone Turner-Bloom, 16, has always known she was adopted but has avoided asking questions about her past. She thinks of Rivka, the woman who gave her up at birth, in abstract terms: "Rivka became just a word to me, one with geometric shape, all angles and points. Somehow I've managed to keep myself from attaching it to a face." Thus it comes as a shock when Rivka calls to suggest that the two of them meet. Reluctantly agreeing, Simone is unprepared for the profound impact the reunion has on her life. During the next several weeks as she becomes acquainted with her biological mother, Simone learns of her Orthodox Jewish roots and is introduced to a new culture. As Rivka's tragic history gradually unfolds, Simone finds herself questioning things that have previously seemed irrelevant: the circumstances of her adoption, the possible existence of God and the meaning of family. At the same time, she enters her first serious relationship with a boy, who acts as both guide and confidante during Simone's "chapter" of self-discovery. Besides offering insight into the customs of Hasidic Jews, this intimate story celebrates family love and promotes tolerance of diverse beliefs. Readers will quickly become absorbed in Simone's quest to understand her heritage and herself. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

About the Author, Dana Reinhardt

Dana Reinhardt lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her two daughters. This is her third novel. She is the author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life and Harmless.

Reviews of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly

In a moving first novel, Reinhardt uses a sure but gentle hand to explore the relationship that develops between an adopted teen and her biological mother. Simone Turner-Bloom, 16, has always known she was adopted but has avoided asking questions about her past. She thinks of Rivka, the woman who gave her up at birth, in abstract terms: "Rivka became just a word to me, one with geometric shape, all angles and points. Somehow I've managed to keep myself from attaching it to a face." Thus it comes as a shock when Rivka calls to suggest that the two of them meet. Reluctantly agreeing, Simone is unprepared for the profound impact the reunion has on her life. During the next several weeks as she becomes acquainted with her biological mother, Simone learns of her Orthodox Jewish roots and is introduced to a new culture. As Rivka's tragic history gradually unfolds, Simone finds herself questioning things that have previously seemed irrelevant: the circumstances of her adoption, the possible existence of God and the meaning of family. At the same time, she enters her first serious relationship with a boy, who acts as both guide and confidante during Simone's "chapter" of self-discovery. Besides offering insight into the customs of Hasidic Jews, this intimate story celebrates family love and promotes tolerance of diverse beliefs. Readers will quickly become absorbed in Simone's quest to understand her heritage and herself. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

KLIATT

This is an outstanding first novel by an enormously talented writer, described in the foreword as a "nonpracticing attorney who has worked on documentaries about many subjects, including genocide in Rwanda...." She sounds very much like the character she creates of Simone's adoptive mother, an attorney for the ACLU in the Boston area. Simone is a brilliant 16-year-old, wise and funny; she is the narrator of this story of how she comes to know her birth mother, how she grows to love her and then must lose her. All readers will be drawn to Simone's story from the first few pages, in which she describes her family, the family she knows and loves. Because this family is so dear to her, she has no interest in meeting her birth mother, even though her parents tell her that this mother, Rivka, has called and would like to meet her. They continue to press Simone as the days go by; eventually Simone telephones Rivka and the story of Simone's adoption unfolds. Rivka is from a Hasidic family and in the years since her teenage pregnancy she has been estranged from her family. She still cherishes the rituals of Shabbat, which she introduces to Simone, who has been raised in a nonreligious home. Finding out that she was born to a Jewish woman helps Simone to consider what a spiritual life might mean--one of the major themes of the story. All the secondary characters are believable and add dimension to Simone's life and narration. Her best friend Cleo and Cleo's mother have their fights, especially when the mother comes home unexpectedly to discover Cleo and her boyfriend having sex. Cleo's rather shallow, sex-filled relationship is contrasted to the slowly evolving friendship and romance between Simoneand Zack. Simone and Cleo have a circle of friends who nurture one another; some of them occasionally drink or smoke pot, one of the friends is gay, and each one is funny, creative, and loyal. Simone, her mother, her father and brother, Rivka, Zack, Cleo--each character is a fully realized human being because of Reinhardt's skill. No one is perfect here, tempers flare, stress builds, but everyone is trying hard to be a decent person. The completion Simone discovers as her love for Rivka grows helps her to face the heartbreaking ending. KLIATT Codes: SA*--Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2006, Random House, Wendy Lamb, 228p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Claire Rosser

Children's Literature

Simone is a well-adjusted teen who accepts her parents' idiosyncrasies (but why subject your friends to them?) and even loves her younger brother. Overall, life is good for her. Out of the blue her parents tell her that her birth mother would like to hear from her. She has always known she was adopted but allowing that reality into her life may not be what she wants. Her parents leave the decision to her and she ultimately decides to meet Rivka, her birth mother. Rivka brings with her a whole past that Simone never knew existed, complete with family and her Orthodox Jewish customs and beliefs. Rivka also brings a secret. This book is wonderfully written. Simone's voice is full of humor and typical teen angst as she navigates a world that has been turned upside down. 2006, Random House, and Ages 14 up.
—Joan Kindig, Ph.D.

VOYA

Simone's life changes when her parents announce, "Rivka called. She wants to meet you." Rivka is Simone's biological mother. Simone has always known that she was adopted, but she never wanted to know about her biological family. At first Simone is angry and wants nothing to do with Rivka. After sixteen years, why contact Simone now? When Simone finally agrees to meet her, Rivka tells Simone that she is sick and dying. She learns that when Rivka, a Hasidic Jew, got pregnant at sixteen, she asked Simone's adoptive mother, an ACLU lawyer, for help. Simone's parents decided to get married and adopt Rivka's baby. Simone is now torn between emotions of anguish, love, anger, and betrayal. Feelings aside, Simone realizes that she must come to terms with Rivka before it is too late. This coming-of-age novel is exceptional. Simone is an amazing protagonist who really draws the reader into her story as she goes through many emotional and spiritual changes. In the beginning she is a member of the Atheist Student Association and by the end she is performing Shabbat and Seder. Readers will gain copious knowledge about Judaism through Simone's curiosity. This novel is a perfect book discussion choice as there are many topics: adoption, Judaism, church versus state, and the definition of family. Reinhardt is a talented new author who creates a beautiful, emotionally raw and often humorous novel. It is an essential purchase for all libraries serving high school students. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 228p., and PLB Ages 15 to 18.
—Sarah Cofer

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Simone's junior year of high school proceeds with common teen issues such as alcohol, a first boyfriend, and sex in Dana Reinhardt's fast-paced novel (Wendy Lamb Books, 2006). Simone has a secure place in a loving family and knows it, resulting in some refreshing and self-aware musing on her part which narrator Mandy Siegfried handles beautifully. Whenever appropriate, she also musters the "whatever" tone in her voice, giving Simone an authentic teenage sound. Simone has always known she was adopted and that her birth mother is named Rivka, but never wanteed to meet her. Something is different now and her parents seem to be pressing for a meeting. Touching encounters soon reveal that her birth mother is dying from ovarian cancer. Simone becomes an angel in Rivka's life and learns how Rivka's conservative Jewish upbringing led her to leave home, give up her baby, and forge her way on her own. Facing the usual teen problems comes into a different focus as Simone encounters life's unfairness, tragedies, and blessings in a thoughtful, well-crafted story. Siegfried offers a sensitive reading that is never maudlin, making the characters come alive. A great read that deals with important teen issues.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Sixteen-year-old Simone has always known she's adopted, and has never wanted to know more, not even when her birth mother calls out of the blue. Simone's got plenty of other things going on already. There's collecting signatures for her mom (a lawyer for the ACLU) outside the Organic Oasis on the weekends; the Atheist Student Association and school paper; her crush on the paper's editor; her best friend who's starting to have sex with a jerk; and her younger brother who is suddenly a completely hot and popular freshman. Simone does get to know her birth mother, a 33-year-old estranged from her Hasidic family, and dying of cancer. Is there a little too much of every possible issue in this story? Possibly. Faith and agnosticism, drinking and puking, sex and virginity and love, Reinhardt brings it all to readers, but she does so in very realistic doses, with a sense of humor and a sense of hope. Simone's first-person voice is funny and unforgettable-a little too wise, perhaps, but her epiphanies are on target and are what readers will be looking for in this fabulous debut. (Fiction. YA)

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