Isabel's Daughter (by Judith Ryan Hendricks)

It was about seven years ago that I read 'Bread Alone' by Judi Hendricks, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. More recently Amazon recommended this book to me, and as the blurb sounded interesting, I put it on my wishlist and was given it a few months ago. I was pleased to discover that the author - Judith Ryan Hendricks - is the same person as Judi Hendricks.

'Isabel's Daughter' is about Avery who is a determined, sometimes outspoken, and intelligent young woman. At the start of the book, she is in her mid-twenties, working for a catering company. We meet her at work, pondering the ripples that arise out of the loss of a contact lens. For Avery has unusual eyes that are of different colours. Hassled already, she sees a portrait of someone with the same eyes, and knows that it can only be of her mother... whom she never met.

This starts Avery on a journey of discovery, although at first she is not particularly eager to know about the woman who abandoned her as a baby. We quickly learn that she was brought up in a children's home. It was pleasant enough; she was not hurt or neglected, but never felt as if she could fit in. Then, when she lost her two only friends at the age of 13, she ran away.

The book is set in different time-frames - first 2000, and then back in 1988, at the place where Avery arrived after running away. We follow her in her new and different life, going through puberty and finding various skills, and then return to 2000 and her adult life. As she thinks about people in the past, and learns more about her mother and her various friends and colleagues, Avery is gradually able to accept herself and - eventually - see how her future might pan out.

The style is racy, written primarily in the present tense. I found it difficult to put down, after a few chapters, and read the bulk of it in one sitting. Avery is a wonderful and believable creation, and while there are one or two coincidences that slightly stretched my credulity, they somehow don't matter in context.

There is a large cast of minor characters, and I sometimes found myself wondering who was whom - but never in a place where it was a problem.

Really, my only slight complaint about the book is that there is more bad language than I am comfortable with - but it was not jarring, or excessive, and unfortunately seems to pervade most modern novels.

Definitely recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 1st August 2011

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