When Pippa Dunn,adopted as an infant and raised terribly British, discovers that her birth parents are from the American South, she finds that "culture clash" has layers of meaning she'd never imagined. Meet The English American, a fabulously funny, deeply poignant debut novel that sprang from Larkin's autobiographical one-woman show of the same name.
In many ways, Pippa Dunn is very English: she eats Marmite on toast, knows how to make a proper cup of tea, has attended a posh English boarding school, and finds it entirely familiar to discuss the crossword rather than exchange any cross words over dinner with her proper English family. Yet Pippa -- creative, disheveled, and impulsive to the core -- has always felt different from her perfectly poised, smartly coiffed sister and steady, practical parents, whose pastimes include Scottish dancing, gardening, and watching cricket.
When Pippa learns at age twenty-eight that her birth parents are from the American South, she feels that lifelong questions have been answered. She meets her birth mother, an untidy, artistic, free-spirited redhead, and her birth father, a charismatic (and politically involved) businessman in Washington, D.C.; and she moves to America to be near them. At the same time, she relies on the guidance of a young man with whom she feels a mysterious connection; a man who discovered his own estranged father and who, like her birth parents, seems to understand her in a way that no one in her life has done before. Pippa feels she has found her "self" and everything she thought she wanted. But has she?
Caught between two opposing cultures, two sets of parents, and two completely different men, Pippa is plunged into hilarious, heart-wrenching chaos. The birth father she adores turns out to be involved in neoconservative activities she hates; the mesmerizing mother who once abandoned her now refuses to let her go. And the man of her fantasies may be just that...
With an authentic adopted heroine at its center, Larkin's compulsively readable first novel unearths universal truths about love, identity, and family with wit, warmth, and heart.
Based on her semi-autobiographical one-woman show of the same title, Larkin's debut novel takes a comedic but heartfelt look at issues of identity, heredity and self-acceptance. Pippa Dunn British, 28 and living with her sister in West London loves her adoptive parents dearly, but has rarely felt at home with the primness and very British emotional restraint with which she was raised, as her funny, anxious narration demonstrates. When Pippa discovers that her birth mother, Billie, is an American (from Georgia, no less) she feels compelled to travel to the U.S. to meet the "the sweet, understanding, empathetic ethereal mother" she's always imagined. Not surprisingly, both Billie and Pippa's birth father, Walt, fail to live up to her imagined ideals. Although Larkin's premise leads to worthy reflections in Pippa's winning voice, awkward attempts to marry the birth-mother search to a conventional romantic comedy plot are less successful. Through a midbook e-mail exchange, we learn that Pippa met her soul mate, Nick (now a banker in Singapore), in a London park seven years before, but wasn't ready to feel love. Nick the banker-cum-painter is far too tortured and emotive to be believable, and the ensuing romantic revelations are predictable. Pippa, however, is a complex, compelling character truly an amalgam of her heredity and her environment and readers will root for her as she uncovers her roots and finds herself.