The first time I saw my mother was the night she died. The second time was at a party in Santa Fe.
After a childhood spent in an institution and a series of foster homes, Avery James has trained herself not to wonder about the mother who gave her up. But her safe, predictable life changes one night when she stumbles upon the portrait of a woman who is the mirror image of herself.
Slowly but inevitably, Avery is compelled to discover all she can about her mother, Isabel. Avery is drawn into complex relationships with the people who knew her mother. As she weaves together the threads of her mother's artistic heritage and her grandmother's skills as a healer, Avery learns that while discovering Isabel provides a certain resolution in her life, it's discovering herself that brings lasting happiness.
A foundling's search for her mother is the subject of this heartfelt if predictable second novel by Hendricks (Bread Alone). Revealed in flashbacks, Avery James's odyssey takes place in the Southwest, where she grew up in the county orphan's home. She is shunned by her more privileged peers through most of her school years, until popular Will Cameron breaks through her determinedly antisocial armor, and she has her first bittersweet experience of love. Avery leaves the home for the rural haven provided by an eccentric old woman called Cassie, a curandera, or healer, who teaches Avery how to concoct remedies from wild plants. As she grows older, Avery's curiosity about the mother who abandoned her becomes increasingly obsessive. Eventually, she finds her way to Santa Fe and its famed art colonies, and goes to work for a trendy caterer (she had providentially learned to cook in the orphans' home). At the house of a client, she sees a portrait of a woman to whom she bears a striking resemblance. Avery's eyes, one brown, one amber, have always been her distinguishing feature, and they're exactly like those of the woman in the portrait, painted by renowned, brilliant artist Tom Hemmings. The client and owner of the painting, millionaire gallery owner Paul DeGraf, takes a liking to Avery and becomes pivotal to her search for her roots. The climax involves a heady dose of feel-good melodrama, but Avery's no-nonsense toughness keeps the saccharine at bay. 6-city author tour.