In 1985, aspiring poet Rebecca Stone gives birth to her first child, Jacob. Suddenly, her existence seems to shrink to the immediate needs of her infant. Feeling overwhelmed, she hires Priscilla Johnson to be Jacob’s nanny, allowing time to advance her writing career.
Rebecca soon becomes dependent on Priscilla for more than Jacob’s wants and needs; the African American woman exudes an emotional calm that Rebecca herself is much in need of.
When Priscilla becomes pregnant and then dies during childbirth, Rebecca feels compelled to adopt her newborn, Andrew. Accustomed to always getting what she wants, Rebecca and her husband adopt Andrew, drawing up a contract with his biological family to ensure their future contact with him.
Rebecca is unprepared for society’s response to her adopted son. Where she sees an adorable baby, others see a black child with a heroic white rescuer. As Andrew grows up, his biological relatives try to warn Rebecca that he will be judged by the color of his skin. But Rebecca is naively convinced that “Andrew would be a man welcomed by the world. Everyone would see what she saw, she was sure of it.”
When Rebecca tells Andrew the story behind his adoption, he asks a question that will haunt her for years to come—"Why are we a family?”
In this novel for adults, which contains some vulgarity, author Rumaan Alam paints a portrait of a woman’s journey into the uncharted waters of motherhood and the nature of family across races. He also shows her advancing a career undergirded by a belief that “we’ll create a world in which my black son and my white son will be judged as equals.” (Ecco)