The Third Child: A Novel

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  1. The Third Child: A Novel -- book review
  2. Novelist · Poet · Memoirist
  3. The Third Child
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The Third Child: A Novel -- book review

Books of the Week. The 10 Best Haruki Murakami Books. I disliked this book. One doesn't pick up a Marge Piercy novel for some mindless entertainment. Piercy, a deeply committed and passionate author and poet, has something to say--and she has done so strongly and well in her many novels. So I knew going in that I was going to have an unforgettable experience, as many of Piercy's novels have never left my consciousness, most notably, "Vida" and "Braided Lives," among others.

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Nevertheless, I was not prepared for the brutal read that is "The Third Child. Melissa Dickinson, who considers herself too tall, too fat, and altogether lumpish, thanks to her shrew of a mother, is the third of four chidren in the picture-perfect family of her father, Senator Dick Dickinson. We gather that the senator is an arch conservative, whose wife and Melissa's uncaring mother , Rosemary, a small-boned, brittle beauty, is the power behind the throne.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop Rosemary in her constant and obsessive push to further her husband's career all the way to the presidency. Every aspect of Melissa's life is a photo op. Otherwise, she sees nothing of her father, and her mother only communicates to criticize. So it is no wonder, then, that when Melissa finally escapes to college, she falls heavily and hard for just the "wrong type of boy" in her mother's eyes, had her mother known about the romance.

Blake is 19, like Melissa, a gorgeous black man who was adopted and raised by a prominent Jewish famiy and who considers himself Jewish as well. But Melissa is besotted with Blake, madly passionately in love as only a first love can be. Too bad the reader is not--there is something just a bit off with this boy, and the reader is at a loss to know what it is.

Here is Piercy's genius coming through. The Dickinson matriarch is such a horrible, manipulative and terrible person, that the reader is loathe to take any opinion that would in any way coincide with hers. And yet as a mother of a year-old daughter, all I could think as a reader was, "get away from this boy! This sense of unease grows throughout the book to an almost unbearable level as we see the insidious manipulation of Melissa from all sides, even when we can't figure out what it's about.

The ending is explosive and troubling in the extreme. This is a scathing indictment of politics in America, no matter what the political party. It makes any reader stop and think, especially in an election year I recommend it to everybody, no matter how liberal or conservative they may be.

Another triumph for Piercy, who simply gets better and better with every book she writes. Like many other reviewers here, I've been a Piercy fan for years and years. I've read nearly all of her considerable ouvre.

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I therefore eagerly greeted this novel, being further excited by the prospect of a main character who would appear to be a bit of stretch for Piercy. Piercy's shtick of the last 20 years -- Jewish, artsy female character struggles with sex but never her sacred identity -- has gotten just a little tiresome and I was looking forward to seeing one of my favorite authors tackle a new kind of protagonist, this time a neglected, wealthy daughter of WASP political family.

For many chapters, I found the characters interesting if not always compelling and found the increase in dramatic tension very assured, something that Piercy has not always pulled off in her earlier work. The plot truly thickens. And the characters are truly credible.

Novelist · Poet · Memoirist

Our heroine, Melissa, is blinded by passion and the thrill of having a clever, handsome young man choose her for his life partner. When Melissa fails to consider that her partner's, Blake's, agendas are themselves ambivalent -- does he want her, or just revenge on her powerful, hideously right-wing father? And I found it touching to see how many reviewers think a high SAT score should indicate political awareness and emotional wisdom -- fat chance!

But if this novel shows anything, it shows that merely believable ambivalence is not enough. Although Blake does something at the end of the novel that the reader can see coming but which Melissa is plausibly unaware of, the meaning of his act doesn't resolve into anything. Is he a flawed hero? Piercy doesn't let us in on the secret nor has she built the unfolding of this vital secret into the very structure of the story, something she would have achieved in the past. So, ex-ghetto kid gets his revenge at a terrible price.

I used to enjoy the occassional Marge Piercy book I picked up but I was disappointed in this one for many of the same reasons others have already mentioned. The characters drove me nuts I wasn't sure if I was supposed to like Blake or not but I did not. I almost thought Alison might turn out to be a double-agent which could have been interesting I was especially annoyed at the dialogue as it struck me as stereotyped I guess I'm not with it but I thought Melissa and Emily and other friends were pretty crude when it came to discussing their sex lives.

I'm Caucasian with many African-American friends who don't speak like they did in the book.

The Third Child

His adoptive parents are lawyers whose defense of death-row cases in the past brought them head-to-head with Melissa's father when he was the governor of Pennsylvania. While Melissa and Blake's attraction is immediate and fiery, a dangerous secret lurks beneath their relationship -- one that could destroy them Provocative and beautifully written, and dealing with themes of love, honesty, identity, and the consequences of ambition, The Third Child is a remarkable page-turner.

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About Product Details 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.