Murphy’s Child by Judith Duncan
(Silh. Int. Mom. #946, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07946-X
Judith Duncan is an artist when portraying angst. Readers may be uncomfortable with the portraits she paints -- they are rarely happy stories of conflict and resolution. But after finishing one, it’s obvious that she has captured the essence of the anguish. Murphy’s Child addresses the issue of abandonment. What is so different and special about her treatment of this issue? I believe it is because her heroine is one who understands her issues, but honestly does not know how to overcome them.

Murphy Munroe is a product of a large happy family in Alberta, Canada. He is a contractor and in the course of doing business employed an accounting firm to handle his accounts. Jordan Kennedy took on his work and their relationship quickly turned from professional to personal. Madly in love, he was stunned when she left him without explanation.

About three months later she shows up the building site where he is working and tells him she is four months pregnant. While willing to take all the responsibility for the child, Jordan insists that she is there to give Murphy the opportunity to be a part of their child’s life, should he so choose.

When the baby is born, Murphy is out of town, but discovers his three-day-old son upon his return. Jordan has taken a six-month leave of absence, but when Murphy arrives at her place he discovers a haggard mother. Anyone who has had a colicky baby understands the incipient exhaustion that comes from that unrelenting condition. Since Jordan was always compulsively neat, Murphy is stunned at the messy and unorganized condition of her home, and realizing she needs help, moves in.

The colicky condition goes on for weeks and Murphy and Jordan become friends. Murphy finally begins to suspect that there must be some reason that Jordan is unreachable, unattainable and untouchable. Quietly, he has a friend in social services investigate. She finds that Jordan had been abandoned at two months of age in a bus stop with extraordinary medical problems that required multiple surgeries. Bounced from one foster home to the next, her existence had been one of great inconvenience to the state and its caretakers.

Murphy doesn’t know how to deal with these issues anymore than she does. Their love affair reignites but Jordan is unwilling to make a commitment of any sort to anyone, except to their son. Duncan handles this burgeoning relationship with care and insight.

Unlike many books that center on a theme of anguish, at least in this story the heroine does not seem to wallow in the process of suffering as we so often see.

How do lay people handle the very complicated psychological problems that result from abandonment? Clearly I think I had underestimated the life long effect of it. Duncan’s resolution was logical, comfortable, tender and persuasive. Combine this with her usual moving romance and you have a book that is highly recommended, and for some may be a keeper.

--Thea Davis

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