On the cusp of her thirtieth birthday, Lara thinks she has it all: a successful career, a hot boyfriend, and supportive presents. For once, she feels like she has control of her life. Then comes her thirtieth birthday party, and her world comes crashing to a halt: as she’s about to blow out her birthday candles, a woman claiming to be her birth mother shows up at the door.
Adopted in Nigeria at the age of three to white, middle class British parents, Lara has always felt different. Cruelly called an “alien” by classmates, she’s always had to deal with the attention she drew from onlookers whenever she was out in public with her light-skinned parents. Her parents certainly could have handled it better: any questions Lara had about her differences were always brushed aside — she didn’t even know the full story of her Nigerian adoption until she was eight years old. As Being Lara develops, readers begin to see why Lara’s parents made the decisions they did, but as a result, young Lara was left to process a lot of confusing experiences on her own.
The arrival of Lara’s biological mother brings back all of the confusion that Lara had managed to bury deep with herself. Suddenly, this woman is addressing her as “Omolara” and trying to build a relationship from scratch. Lara’s main coping mechanism is to distance herself as much as possible.
The book is told through a series of flashbacks. Lara’s painful experiences growing up are laid bare; at thirty, she may have seemed to have figured life out, but the arrival of her biological mother proves that she still has a lot of work to do. The stories of both of her mothers are also told; the complicated reasons Lara’s biological mother gave her up for adoption are revealed, as are the reasons Lara’s parents decided to adopt her.
I only have one real beef with the book, and that’s the cover. Don’t get me wrong…I chose to read the book partly because of the cute little girl on the cover. But in the book, much is made of how foreign and conspicuous little Lara felt in her dark skin. The kid on the cover was certainly not how I envisioned the Nigeria-born, self-conscious little girl in the book.
Cover imagery notwithstanding, the concepts of identity and heritage are tackled as Lara tries to reconcile her confusing past with the woman she is at thirty. No longer is she able to ignore her roots or the life-altering decisions her parents made twenty-seven years before. Being Lara is fluffy and predictable at times, but it’s an entertaining read if you’re in the mood for lighter fare.
Being Lara was released on March 13, 2012 by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.