By: Joyce Norman and Joy Collins
Reviewed by: Perle Champion
Chalet Publishers, LLC, 2008
It’s said that many first novels are, at least in part, autobiographical. In this instance, it is true. The core of Coming Together is a true story. Birmingham writer Joyce Norman lived it. With her friend Joy Collins acting as foil and prod, Norman tells us her story of a single woman traversing the hostile bureaucratic maze of the foreign adoption process in 1980s Brazil. She seamlessly weaves every minute detail of that intriguing slice of her life between the pages of an entertaining love story that never was. The two stories are not just a deft coming together of memoir and novel, but of friends, family, lovers, and cultures as well.
Chapter One starts off at a dead run with a brief taste of what awaits an unsuspecting Daisy. A flash forward shows the terror that is reality in a country where the police are a law unto themselves. They knock down the doors of an innocent adoption agency and take infants and children away at gunpoint without warrant or cause to the “funabem,” a benign name for the nightmare that is the state orphanage. This taste makes us read a little faster to see how it all unfolds, as ensuing chapters slow the action down and take readers back in time to meet Daisy and Luis.
The novel is the love story of Daisy and Luis that wraps this telling in hope when hope is needed most. Daisy is an American fleeing a marriage that failed because her career’s star far outshone her husband’s. She is an independent, now single woman, determined to get on with her life. Along with her photographer, Charlie, she flies to Rio to immerse herself in her latest commission—a documentary on Brazil for a Dr. Tsuru.
Luis is the proverbial tall, dark, handsome stranger, a Brazilian photographer with a surprising past, who joins Daisy’s documentary crew on Charlie’s recommendation. Daisy is immediately smitten, not only with Luis, but also with Rio’s deceptive beauty, and unexpectedly, with a small orphaned infant.
The memoir could stand alone, but who among us, given the chance, would not rewrite our history to include a love affair, and a tall, dark handsome stranger? Not I. Sept 2009
Perle Champion is a freelance writer and artist.