Happy Endings

The Art of Adapting: A Novel, by Cassandra Dunn, (Simon & Schuster), 368 pages

Cassandra Dunn’s The Art of Adapting is one of those books that has one expecting a happy ending from the beginning. A middle-aged woman recently abandoned by her husband, her brother with Asperger’s syndrome, her son looking for a social niche, and her daughter with an eating disorder—yes, I suppose a writer could make a tragedy out of those elements, but that would be cruel. With characters who come so close ourselves (and these characters do) we need hope, need a sense of how an individual makes the best of her own imperfections and learns to use them to her advantage.

In The Art of Adapting this process of turning imperfections into advantages plays out not just for the characters individually, but also for the four of them as a family. Their collective imperfections ultimately make for a (surprisingly) functional group.

I don’t really want to say more about this book because with its straightforward plot line, I could too easily give all the best moments away. Suffice it to say, this is a book that will leave the reader feeling good about herself and the characters. The real-life reader may not have the elements of her life fall together as neatly as the characters’. But the characters’ happiness comes across as genuine and within the reach of the reader.

For readers who need an infusion of hope and for those who simply want to spend a few evenings with people trying their best and making progress, this book will be a genuine pleasure.