I finally just finished reading Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky. The book is about three high school seniors who make a pregnancy pact. The three mothers of these girls are also friend and business partners. Set in a small town, the book centers on the the moral debate of the definition of good motherhood, focusing on the perspective of Susan, one of the mothers and principal of the high school.
I had high expectations when I started reading this book. My roommate had recommended and lent it to me. I admit that the idea of a pregnancy pact among teenagers was intriguing, especially in today’s time. Instead of placing the focus on the girls, the book instead tracks with the emotional progress of the mothers. The book started out interestingly enough with the discovery of not only the three pregnancies, but also the pact. But after that, the book just started feeling repetitive. Apparently, pregnancy pact moms have only a limited range of emotions- anger, anxiety, and guilt.
The book dealt with the same two issues: the mothers accepting the pregnancies, and Susan keeping or losing her job as principal. I actually had to take a long break from the book more than once because I was so frustrated with the characters and how single-minded they were. Each mother fit into a stereotypical mother box and rarely ventured outside of that line of thinking. Susan is the cool single mom who is friends with her daughter. Sunny is the strict mother who is too concerned with appearances. And Kate is the mom with a house full of kids and not enough money to go around. As you all know, I am not a mother. That being said, it is hard for me to completely understand the perspective of the three mothers as they deal with their daughters pregnancies and the town reaction, but there were times that I just wanted to throttle them, Susan especially. For the most part, the mothers were so concerned with making sure their daughters were happy and having a normal teenage experience that they didn’t make them face much of the reality that their pact decision to have a baby had wrought. Instead, the mothers took on all of the reality themselves and allowed their daughters to live in a fantasy world in which their decisions didn’t have any personal repercussions.
And as I was reading, I just couldn’t believe the mindset of these three girls. They saw absolutely nothing wrong in what they were doing. They were so caught up in having babies, that they couldn’t look beyond their babies. They were so willing to give up everything to have get pregnant and got so defensive when anyone, let alone their own parents, questioned their motives and acted anything less than elated. They expected their haphazard plan to go off without a hitch and for everything to go perfectly because they wanted it to. As unrealistic as that kind of perspective might be, I can confidently say that it is indeed an accurate depiction of the perspective of a teenager. I remember being seventeen. I thought that every decision I made was right and no one had the right to doubt me because I was an adult. I rarely thought about the future ramifications that those decisions would have. Thank goodness I have learned better. I wish that the author would have explored the development and change in the three girls as they discovered that getting pregnant and having babies was not quite the walk in the park that they had expected.
Instead, the book focused most of its meat on the town’s reaction to the pregnancy pact. The book is set in a small tourist town in Maine, and had there not been constant referencing to emails and cell phones, I would have sworn that I was reading about a story set in Mayberry. The biggest opposition was the school board, anchored by four grumpy old men who spent the entire book being the stereotypical antagonists to Susan’s continuing battle to be a good principal and mother. They had no character development and were there strictly to make you rally around Susan, in spite of the fact that she was doing stupid things like paying for all of her daughters maternity clothes and letting her daughter continue her normal life as though being pregnant was just one of the many extracurricular activities that she involved in. I never really felt threatened that Susan would lose her job, despite all the effort the author put in trying to make me feel that way. I mostly just felt tired and sad for the town folk who made teen pregnancy a measure of good or bad motherhood and thus the determinant in whether or not a woman could still continue in a position of authority.
Overall, the book was a three out of five for me. It definitely wasn’t bad by any means, but not a book that I’m likely to recommend. But if you think it might be worth a read, check it out.