I was assigned Look Again by Lisa Scottoline for an English class on recent popular literature – a class I dropped after the first 15 minutes of the first lecture. If I wanted a Garrison Keilor on quaaludes experience, I’d stay home and dope up to A Prarie Home Companion, not pay for the credit hours of sitting in this class. I tell you this because, regardless of this less-than-ideal class experience, I was determined to get through the books on the syllabus anyway. I mean, I had already bought them – a lot of them on Kindle, so I was carrying a number of them with me at once – so I might as well finish them, right? Wrong.
Look Again started off all well and good. Journalist Ellen Gleeson is very much so in love with her adopted son, Will. She adopted him years ago after doing an in-depth profile on him as a story. Will was a sickly child, and he met Ellen when she did a story on his pediatric cardiac care unit. Fast forward three years, and a photo turns up on Ellen’s desk that looks exactly like Will, only it’s not Will. It’s a time-progressed photo of a boy who was kidnapped right around the time that Ellen began to get to know Will and adopt him. Suddenly, Ellen’s whole world is turned upside down when she’s forced to face the thought – what if her adopted son Will is actually the kidnapped Timothy Braverman? Things start to get even more suspicious when Ellen learns that the family of the adoptive mother had no idea she’d given up the baby, and the lawyer handling the case commits suicide. Ellen decides then and there to take it upon herself to find out exactly who her son is, and where Timothy Braverman went. All of that sounds like an amazing premise, right?! Right! That’s exactly what I thought to. Unfortunately, for me at least, the premise just stopped working about half of the way through.
I don’t entirely know what the problem was. Maybe it all just got too far-fetched and extreme for me. I can understand the curiosity, and even the pressing nature of not being able to rest until you know. But Ellen is willing to throw away a relationship, a job, and even time with her son in order to answer this question. Perhaps its just that the writing was a bit doltish, which I was willing to go with while the plot kept pace, but then that started to go downhill too. Right about the time that Ellen takes off to drop in on the Bravermans, everything just started moving too slowly. Passages discussing the law were intermixed with repetitive passages about how worried Ellen was, and WHAT IF, and…well, I’m sure you can imagine. And it’s not that these questions and concerns aren’t valid. It’s that they’re repetitive. Excruciatingly so.
That being said, I really did love Ellen as a character. I thought she was a great literary example of the love that inhabits a person that makes them willing to adopt and love as their own a child who’s creation they had no part in. I’ve a number of friends who either have adopted or were adopted, and I’ve always been a little curious as to what made them/their parents decide to open their homes and hearts to make a family kind of like a patchwork quilt. I know part of it may have to do with reproductive issues, but clearly that can’t be the whole story. But it always feels a little awkward to ask those questions point blank, so I felt like Look Again did a good job of providing possible insight and answers.
This book is probably right up some people’s alleys. I should mention that I’m not the biggest fan of crime mysteries (I’ll read them and enjoy them, but they’re rarely a go-to genre choice) so that might have had something to do with my reaction to this book. I also want to say that, while it may be slightly unfair to give the book only 2.5 stars, as I didn’t even manage to get through the whole thing, that rating applies only to what I did read, that being the first 50% of the book. I think it’s fairly telling, though, when the reader just stops caring about the answer to the question that is driving the whole of the novel. And that’s exactly what happened with Look Again.