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Being Lara Featured Review

Lola Jaye
William Morrow
320 pages
Reviewed by Janice Evans

The Other Side of ‘Just Being Me’ 

What other explanation could there be? Black and kinky hair, so unlike her white parents, Lara knew she was different. At eight she finally learned the word "adopted." Twenty-two years later, a stranger arrives at her London home as she blows out the candles on her thirtieth birthday cake—a woman in a blue-and-black head tie who also claims to be Lara’s mother.

Lara, always in control, now finds her life slipping free of the stranglehold she's had on it. Unexpected, dangerously unfamiliar emotions are turning Lara's life upside down, pulling her between Nigeria and London, forcing her to confront the truth about her past. But if she's brave enough to embrace the lives of her two mothers, she may discover once and for all what it truly means to be Lara.

A poignant and provocative story of adoption, self-discovery, and the meaning of family, Being Lara is a tale of three women—British mother, Nigerian birth mother, and 30-year-old daughter—the choices they made, and the fragile bond they try to create across time and continents. Intelligent and touching, Being Lara is exquisite contemporary fiction with heart and soul.

That’s what the publisher has to say about it. And while it’s all true, there was just one word for describing Lara’s personality – tedious.  Lara's character is self-centered, self-absorbed, egotistical, and emotionally distant.  At one point in the book, even her lover abandons her for a safer haven.

In defense of Lara, she, as people tend to do, was just trying to hold it all in to the point of explosion – and it drove her to compulsion. Adopted by white parents, being Black, knowing she was different yet afraid to ask any questions that might change or shift the only parental love she had ever known, Lara's emotions were taut, putting her every friendship in jeopardy:

“It was hard to pinpoint the very moment in time that Lara began to tap things, only it had increased around the time of her tenth birthday. The urge to do it was so strong, at times she'd in­dulge before starting something important like homework, as if by not doing it, she'd get low marks or worse – Mum and Dad being carted away from her and she being shipped back to Africa. Sometimes she was aware of just how silly she was being; other times it felt like a matter of life and death. Ironically, these urges to count, or walk in and out of a room multiple (always an even number) times, had started to increase as she and Sandy got closer. Lara feared that by not obeying her urges, her friend would most definitely be taken from her.”

What follows is a heart-warming story of real-life redemption that is at times beautiful and, at times, wearing on patience. Despite these deterrents, readers should stay with the book and see it through.

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