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The Third Child: A Novel
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The Third Child: A Novel

2.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  355 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Under her mother's constant scrutiny and lost in the shadow of her famous senator father, Melissa is the third child in the politically prominent Dickenson family, where ambition comes first and Melissa often comes last. In college, she meets Blake, a man of mixed race and apparently unknown parentage. His adoptive parents are lawyers whose defense of death-row cases in th ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 23rd 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published November 25th 2003)
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Mar 12, 2009 Lisa rated it did not like it
I'm irritated reading this book, but I'll probably finish it. I so loved "Woman on the Edge of Time" when I read it in my early twenties, and now I am nearly always disappointed when I read something else by Piercy. I hesitate to reread "Woman ... " for fear of knocking it of the pedestal I put it on when I was so much younger and more idealistic (naive? same coin / different sides?) ... I don't find the voice of Melissa convinving and the other characters are all either flat or each have some e ...more
Feb 10, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok
I love Marge Piercy, I am a huge fan. I've loved many of her novels and her poetry. That's why I was surprised to find this book at a library book sale - a Marge Piercy novel I'd never heard of? After reading it, I know why. The main character of the book is incredibly naive, so the plot "twists" that rock her world are pretty obvious to the readers, chapters before they actually happen. It's kind a train wreck. I was quite disappointed.
Dec 02, 2007 Jan rated it it was ok
Blark. I found certain parts of this story kind of offensive to my sensibilities and other parts just plain not believable. About a spoiled Washington political brat and her struggles to go to college and grow up. Marge, what happened here?
Jan 28, 2014 Leslie rated it did not like it
This is not a well written book. The story is improbable, the characters are irritating--every single one!! It sounds like it was written by an adolescent in the throes of her first romance. It also is a very shallow and unresearched attempt to portray corruption in state and federal politics. The dialog is trite, the characters are caricatures, and it is so condescendingly anti-racist that it actually sounds racist. There's a pair of Jewish Lawyers, a black Jewish kid, a bunch of rich white idi ...more
Mar 24, 2010 Sammie rated it did not like it
The writing style of this book was pretty terrible in my opinion. This author has ignored the basic 'show don't tell' advice when it comes to fiction writing - at least for this novel. You are spoon-fed everything, often repeatedly. The story was a good idea. The characters had the potential to be great characters. But the whole plot relied on the main character being a total moron and not seeing the obvious truth. I read it all the way through, because I very rarely give up on a book I've start ...more
Feb 24, 2011 Mazohyst rated it did not like it
The whole book was like a car crash. It was messy, bloody, and horrible, but I couldn't look away. Supposedly to be like a modern day Romeo and Juliet, I was highly disappointed. Everything was predictable and boring. From the very beginning, Blake's motives were so apparent but Melissa is too much of an idiot to see it. Blake was a character that really got on my nerves. Maybe it's just me, but his excessive use of "babe" irritated me. He said it just over ten times, but I was already pulling m ...more
Dec 02, 2014 MaryKate rated it did not like it
Don't be fooled into thinking this storyline is going anywhere. This was an incredibly incoherent book. At times I wondered if it was a young adult novel. For most of it I couldn't decide who the characters were supposed to be--naive, sincere, important, minor, cunning, loving, stupid... The first quarter to third of the novel was interesting, imaging what it might be like to be the child of an "important" public person. The move to college and dating someone "inappropriate" could have made an i ...more
Nancy Ferreyra
Nov 25, 2008 Nancy Ferreyra rated it really liked it
I give this book a four because I wanted it to go deeper. However I think the point of the book was to give the reader room to interpret the characters motives on their own, so the writer created that space. I see the value of the technique, but was left wanting more.
Dec 17, 2012 Abilouise rated it it was ok
I think that this is easily, totally, 100% my least favorite Marge Piercy novel. The most positive thing I can say about it is that it is the first time I'd ever seen emergency contraception used in a novel, which I liked.
Naomi Young
Dec 07, 2015 Naomi Young rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up, kindle, aclib, 2015
Since I haven't a snowball's chance of making my challenge this year, I'm just going to boldly fling my final attempts onto the critical winds.

I really love Marge Piercy's work as a whole, but this book left me cold. Is it some attempt at YA? The parents are cardboard, and the protagonist is annoying. Perhaps I left too soon, but I gave it time in excess of the Nancy Pearl formula, (for those over 50, one's age subtracted from 100 is the highest page number one need give a book), and remained u
Claire S
Feb 11, 2009 Claire S rated it liked it
Recommended to Claire by: Prior Piercy
This was back on the side of 'didn't like' of hers (I'm about half and half). It was uncomfortable the whole time, with the main struggling pretty much about to boil over the whole time.
And also the content about our US govt has bothered me ever since. And I've been thinking about it ever since, which is why I rated it as highly as I did.
The thing in particular is Piercy's content about our Senate, and how close they are to each other, and far removed from their constituencies, and how bad that
Jul 22, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: chicklit
This book had the worst font! It's the little things that bug me. The book was about the third child, Girl (of course), who is like lost in her little political family. She has two older sibs who are like her mothers pride and joy and then her and her brother who are kind of left out of everything. This book takes place in current times, even though sometimes I got all confused and thought it took place in the 60's or something, but then the mother emails her children, so I knew it was more curr ...more
Aug 15, 2010 Janice rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
I wanted to read this book because in the past, I have read some of Marge Piercy's poetry and loved it. However, this book I did not. While it kept my attention, it didn't hook me in. The main character, Melissa, was a girl who was just too plain and naive.

With Melissa being the third child, and her father a senator, no one pays attention to her. Instead, the family is focused on having a good reputation in front of America. When Melissa finally moves away to college, she is able to be her self
Oct 21, 2015 Nick rated it liked it
I liked the book and found the two main characters interesting and believable. My main negative was the ending, which I found very depressing. Still, realistic. Not sure why so many reviews are bad--it think people are irriated by the main character's passivity, bujt in my experience this is the way most, or many, people are in the face of overwhelmeingly oppressive circumstances.
Dec 15, 2010 Molly rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 27, 2015 Emmi rated it it was ok
It was pretty disappointing for a Marge Piercy book, a writer I usually like a LOT. The protagonist is a pretty clueless young woman, and there is a lot of her obsessing and agonizing over typical things like her parents, body image, and boyfriend. I guess all the agonizing is believable but not enjoyable to read, at least not so much of it. And the ending was a little too dramatic to be believable to me.
Jun 29, 2014 Sbrittli rated it did not like it
I read the back flap and thought, what an interesting story this will be. Unfortunately, It wasn't and I gave up on page 40. What poor narrative, phony dialogues and trains of thought presumably by a teenager... Please give the same plot to someone else and see what they can do with it.
Jun 29, 2014 Christa rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, class
I'm giving it two because I liked it enough to finish reading and wanted to know exactly how the shit hit the fan...but definitely disappointed in this book and didn't feel a connection to the characters
Jun 02, 2014 Caroline rated it it was ok
Big disappointment from one of my favorite authors. I found myself sympathetic with the characters that were obviously supposed to be the bad guys. Maybe I just don’t like coming of age novels.
Kate North
Jul 05, 2015 Kate North rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I've been a big Marge Piercy fan from way back, but I hated this; it just felt contrived and predictable. I didn't finish it (though I did, of course, read the end!)
Apr 04, 2015 Tolly rated it it was ok
It was too hard to become invested in these characters. I never felt like I cared about them, their romance, anything. Very dissappointing she has much better books.
Melissa Ionita
Pretty good a little whiny at points but good and interesting end.
Lucy Crawford
Aug 03, 2014 Lucy Crawford rated it did not like it
Barely freshman level prose, and the plot is both banal and obvious.
Mary Campbell
Sep 22, 2014 Mary Campbell rated it really liked it
I liked the book, but most of the reviews are bad.
Elizabeth Ruth
May 13, 2013 Elizabeth Ruth rated it liked it
A very strange book that was painful to read at times because of the main character's almost insistent naivetee. Why so painful? Reminded me of myself at 18, hell, at 20.

Such flat, stereotypical characters, such a totally predictable plot, and yet there was something that kept me reading. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this, but there was something redeemable- probably the way Piercy captures the doggone infuriating idealism of people in their early 20s.
Mar 16, 2014 Barb rated it it was ok
Not nearly as good as her other novels.
Sep 16, 2009 Juliezs rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2009
I was pretty disappointed in this book, the story was a good idea that had real potential and the author is someone who I would have expected to be able to really do it justice. But the problem was the central character was incredibly naive and resistant to reality and just was so frustrating to try and connect with. I almost gave up, but was curious to see if the ending I predicted in the middle of the book came to pass, yup.
Christine Williams
Apr 02, 2014 Christine Williams rated it liked it
Good read. I guessed early on what was happening, but it was well told.
Mar 05, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it
I couldn't wait for this book to end - the pages and pages of self pity was mind numbing and there was not one person who I felt any empathy or sympathy for - I am not sure why I even finished it except to be able to say I finished it. I used to love Marge Piercy's books..... not so much anymore. I would recommend you NOT read this book!
Dec 14, 2009 Marisa rated it did not like it
I loved Marge Piercy when I was in high school and college; I'm not sure whether my tastes have changed, or if this book is inferior to her earlier work. In any case, it was so trite and painfully stereotyped that I couldn't finish it. Also, the college scenes seem incredibly dated, even though they're supposed to be set in 2003 or so.
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Marge Piercy (born March 31, 1936) is an American poet, novelist, and social activist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers, a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.

Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression. She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan. Winning a
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