The Search for Shannon by Vicki Allen is the story of two families whose lives are shaped by the birth and subsequent adoption of a baby girl.
Andie La Rue is the owner of a catering business called Créme de la Créme. It’s been twenty years since she gave birth to a baby girl she named Shannon, but she gave the baby up for adoption per the advice of her brother David. Andie was only eighteen years old, and David felt she was not in any position to raise a child. Against her wishes, the baby was taken from her soon after the birth, and twenty years later she is still having nightmares about it.
Her life should have been a success. However, the fact that she gave up a baby for adoption and the fact that the father, who was the love of her life, never even knew about the baby, made a big difference in her mental well being. This eventually led to the break up of her marriage to Freddie La Rue, a man who loved her despite her past, and with the divorce, Freddie gets custody of their two children, Dana and Jerry. By this point in her life, Andie is in no shape to take care of the children, let alone run a business.
Andie’s story starts in part one, in which she meets up with Tammy, her best friend since childhood, and Cole, the father of her child, in conjunction with a high school reunion. Andie pretty much confesses everything to them both, thus bringing the reader up to date as well. The reader may find this method of storytelling a bit forced, although it does work to set up the tale.
Part two dwells on Dana, Andie’s oldest child with her husband Freddie. Most of her life, Dana has been very threatened by Andie’s first child Shannon, and it greatly shaped her personality as well as made a big impact on her childhood. The narrative at this point of the book goes back in time to tell the story of Andie and Freddie’s marriage and how the knowledge of Andie’s first baby shaped the lives of her two other children. Compared to the first section, this part of the novel seems more credible in terms of characterization and plot. The act of Cole forgiving Dana so readily in Part One does not ring true to this reader, for example. Too many things fall conveniently into place. However, Part Two is much more realistic. It was as if the author was getting warmed up, and the more one reads this book, the better the book seems to get.
The next section cuts away from Andie and Dana’s tale and jumps to the story of a family of privilege, the Carsons. It opens with a vision of a young woman riding on a horse, giving the impression of a free spirit. Thus the reader is introduced to Lili Le Jeune, who this reviewer feels is the most charismatic character in this novel and makes the book worth reading. The story about the Carsons continues through another generation until Zoe’s introduction is made, a baby adopted by Lili’s daughter, Diane, whose body is not able to carry a baby to term. This section of the book is probably the most enjoyable of the entire novel, filled with entertaining characters and an interesting story that centers on the wealthy Carson family.
While the title of this book is The Search for Shannon, the adoption really does not play much into the plot except to introduce the characters of Andie and Dana and, later on, to bring the two families together. In essence, it’s almost as if these were two separate books, bridged together at the end by Zoe. While Zoe is the adopted child of Diane and Jay, this fact doesn’t really make that big a dent into this subplot, either. The stories of these two families could have been written in a more cohesive manner, as opposed to separating out the subplots as different parts of one book. Because of this, the reader may grow impatient while reading the various sections, wondering how the two stories will come together.
The story itself is good enough to draw in the reader, and by the end of the book one will leave with a feeling of satisfaction. However, for anyone looking for a realistic view of adopted children and the families they impact, this is a rather romantic view. The reader should not expect a realistic story but one that is a form of escapism - and there isn’t really anything wrong with that.