Natalie, at 17, is about to go to college. She decides it is time for her to find her real mother and father who put her up for private adoption at birth. Her adoptive parents, as a graduation present, give her the resources (money, a car) to pursue this quest over the course of the summer, along with the little information they possess about her natural parents. She follows up all the clues she can, discovering that she was born to an unmarried 15-year-old whose boyfriend died soon after. Her mother is a well-to-do model, and they eventually meet in New York with no very profound consequences.

A book which surprised me pleasantly. I had prejudiciously expected a combination of American heart-rending and sordid biographies. While the book is unmistakeably American, this is no more than the natural setting for the characters. The principle characters are Natalie Armstrong, the successful and pretty 17-year-old who goes in search of her natural parents while continuing to love her adoptive parents; Nancy, her 16-year-old sister by adoption with whom she gets on very well; Dr.&Mrs. Armstrong, a loving couple who give their daughter the wherewithal to go and look for her parents while not really understanding why she must do this; Tallie Chandler, Mrs. Armstrong’s artist mother who is full of practical wisdom and art. The more peripheral roles include Paul, Natalie’s boyfriend, who does not really understand her quest but who remains faithful to her; Ann Talbot, a housewife in the little village where Natalie was born; the Doctor who delivered her and who is dying in the same village; finally, her mother, now a successful model. There is a certain amount of the heart-on-the-sleeve stuff, but it is a joy to find a book where someone is setting out not through sorrow or bitterness, but for a natural reason, and not wanting to hurt those she loves.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London.  He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.