Catherine's Reviews > Child of My Heart

Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott
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's review
Feb 17, 12

really liked it
Read in November, 2011

If you're a plot person, pass this one by and pick up something by Grisham or Brown. Like most of Alice McDermott's work, this book isn't about plot. It's about character, mood, and setting. In fact, not a lot happens. The narrator is Theresa, a pretty 15-year-old on Long Island who has a way with pets and small children. For part of the summer, Theresa hosts her favorite cousin, eight-year-old Daisy, who comes to visit the older cousin she worships and to escape the drudgery of her own household in Queens. Day after day, Daisy tags along as Theresa walks dogs and babysits children for wealthy neighbors and "summer people." Along the way, Theresa is intrigued by the sexual interest shown in her by the fathers of her charges, alternately amused and saddened by the foibles of the children next door, and distressed by bruises that appear on Daisy's increasingly pale skin and don't heal. Neither girl can say out loud what both fear: that Daisy is terminally ill (with leukemia, perhaps, though the book never says) and this is their last summer together. That may sound maudlin, but it's not. Child of My Heart is more understated than McDermott's National-Book-Award-winning Charming Billy and simpler than her Of Weddings and Wakes. The real tragedy here isn't Daisy's illness; it's the neglect and thoughtlessness with which most of the parents in the book treat their children. A lovely, quiet jewel of a book.

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