Stillwater College in Virginia, 1966. Freshman Peggy, an ingénue with literary pretensions, falls under the spell of Lee, a blue-blooded poet and professor, and they begin an ill-advised affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. The couple are mismatched from the start - she's a lesbian, he's gay - but it takes a decade of emotional erosion before Peggy runs off with their three-year-old daughter, leaving their nine-year-old son behind.
Worried that Lee will have her committed for her erratic behavior, Peggy goes underground, adopting an African-American persona for her and her daughter. They squat in a house in an African-American settlement, eventually moving to a housing project where no one questions their true racial identities.
As Peggy and Lee's children grow up, they must contend with diverse emotional issues: Byrdie must deal with his father's compulsive honesty while Karen struggles with her mother's lies - she knows neither her real age nor that she is white nor that she has any other family.
Years later a minority scholarship lands Karen at the University of Virginia, where Byrdie is in his senior year. Eventually the long-lost sibling will go, setting off a series of misunderstandings and culminating in a comedic finale worthy of Shakespeare.
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Misbegotten, mishandled, misfired novel
- Julie W. Capell
Smart, Funny Novel
- Lukas A. Kaiser