Review by Clementine Ellis · in the Arizona Daily Sun
Sometimes families have secrets; sometimes the secret is the family. Local author Nancy Bo Flood’s “No-Name Baby” tells the story of Italian-American teenager Sophie attempting to unravel and cope with her family’s tragic past.
Living in the aftermath of World War I, attempting to aid her mother through a tumultuous pregnancy and dealing with her less-than-understanding aunt all come to create a perfect storm and make for an interesting, but still relatable, coming-of-age story. “No-Name Baby” is an insightful and memorable piece of young adult literature.
Sophie’s family has a mysterious and deeply hidden past. When Sophie’s pregnant mother goes into premature labor, it acts as a catalyst for Sophie to begin questioning her family’s history and motivations. When Sophie’s pensive and brooding aunt comes to help the family in its time of need, Sophie is eager to learn about the family’s past.
However, when Aunt Rae is hostile and wary of giving Sophie any information, she begins to pull away from her family and instead finds comfort in the boy-next-door. As both the family and Sophie are forced to confront their issues and each other, they find that family is what is most important to them, and that love comes in a lot of different forms.
“No-Name” is an engaging and heartfelt quick read. Despite its short length, it packs quite an emotional punch and is incredibly effective at establishing a protagonist who is easy to empathize with, despite her flaws. The most absorbing parts of this novel are the relationships between the main characters. Flood does an excellent job at creating genuine, honest characters with dynamic and interesting relationships.
Despite their troubles, Flood manages to make the love running through the family feel extremely palpable. Flood has experience writing about different cultures (she has lived on the Navajo Reservation and penned such titles as “The Navajo Year, Walk Through Many Seasons” and “The Hogan that Great-Grandfather Built”) and it comes through in this story. The tidbits and anecdotes of living as an Italian immigrant are intriguing and add to the feeling of a close-knit family.
The writing itself is poetic and sensual in nature, and her use of metaphor and diction gives a reflective tone to the serious subject matter. This book has the potential to please older readers, but I would recommend this book primarily for younger teens.
My only criticism of the novel is that it is too short. The novel tackles some complex problems, and the resolution seemed somewhat rushed. Some readers, however, may appreciate the writer’s ability to get to the point and avoid any extraneous narrative.
This novel on the whole paints a realistic picture of a family- one with shame, tragedy and secrets that overcomes all this through their love of each other. The characters are relatable, honest and well thought out. The plot is intricate, captivating and multifaceted. Overall, despite its smaller size, this novel is well worth the reader’s time. “No-Name Baby” is a touching read from a local author.
- Clementine Ellis is a senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy and contributes book reviews to the Arizona Daily Sun. She primarily reviews young adult novels with an emphasis on Arizona authors, past visiting authors and ones with regionally relevant settings or topics.