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Monica Bauer
DNA, or The Book of Brad
Monica Bauer, author
Rose Pettigrew is a striking and accomplished young Black lawyer in the middle of a hot love affair with Paula Bernstein, one of the most successful heart surgeons in Los Angeles She has one thing missing in her life; she needs to find her family. When her adoptive mother slides into the final stages of Alzheimer’s, she finally feels free to search for her birth parents. Her hands shake as she opens the email from “DNA and Me” that gives her a chance to find them. Her DNA results show one very close match, a likely grandfather; Rabbi Shmuel Cohen, whose only son is the famous author of self-help books, Rabbi Brad. In a cruel twist, Rose reads the email on the same day Rabbi Brad dies in a fiery car crash. On the 405 in the middle of phone sex with his dental hygenist. Nobody knows about the phone sex or the dental hygenist; not yet, anyway. Searching for a relationship with the family that remains, Rose and Paula go to meet the old Rabbi, a guilt-ridden gentleman in his eighties, a man with a heart condition in more ways than one. This begins the journey to finding her only sibling, Brad’s son Jacob, if Brad’s grieving widow will allow it.
This quick and funny novel from playwright Bauer explores family dynamics, sapphic relationships, and finding where you truly belong. Rose Pettigrew is a young Black lawyer who has never known her biological parents or where she truly came from. Growing up, Rose promised her adoptive mother that she would never seek out her birth parents until after her adoptive mother was dead and gone, but once her adoptive mother develops early onset Alzheimer's, Rose goes back on her word and takes a DNA test. It turns out that Rose's biological father is a semi-famous rabbi, the author of multiple self-help books–and, unfortunately, now passed, having met his untimely death right before the test results came back.

Bauer deftly tells a fast-moving story with crisp comic dialogue, but its heart is in its three- dimensional, highly likable characters. Rose is in a serious relationship with Paula, a heart surgeon. As Rose gets acquainted with her grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Cohen, and her biological brother, Jacob, she’s helped by Paula, who is Jewish, in navigating the challenges of integrating into this newfound family. Rabbi Brad, too, plays a prominent role, and readers discover him through excerpts of his many self-help books featured at the beginning of each chapter, and through the eyes of the family that he left behind. “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a masochist and 1 being Oprah, what did your Dad, Rabbi Brad, teach you about guilt?” Paula asks Jacob. His answer is complex and surprising.

This novel will please fans of comic family dramas as, for all its sharply observed cultural specifics, it finds universals within its themes of family ties and self-discovery. Mixing comedy with heart, Bauer’s story will resonate with those who, even in their adult life, feel themselves still searching for a place among family, a feeling of belonging and being home.

Takeaway: A sharp, funny story of DNA surprises and finding your place in a new family and culture.

Great for fans of: Jessica Strawser’s A Million Reasons Why, Marra B. Gad’s The Color of Love.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A