Author Elinor Lipman introduces readers to April Epner, a thirty-six-year-old Latin teacher, in Then She Found Me. As the novel opens, April's adoptive parents have recently passed away. Shortly thereafter, April's birth mother, Bernice Graverman, sweeps in to comfort her. Host of the unpleasant Boston-based talk show Bernice G!, Bernice is a boisterous and overbearing presence in April's life.
At age seventeen, Bernice gave up April for adoption. As a result, the two women developed into polar opposites. Unassuming April is a quiet introvert who is content to spend her weekends at home in her pajamas doing schoolwork. Bernice, on the other hand, is focused on her local celebrity, obtaining designers' latest trends, and being the life of the party. Expecting to be welcomed into April's life with open arms, Bernice is put off when her biological daughter is less than thrilled by her reappearance. Each not believing that she could possibly be related to the other, Bernice and April are mutually horrified by their differences.
The two women begin to get to know one another slowly and, at least on April's part, somewhat reluctantly. Bernice reveals some unexpected information to April about the identity of her father, and, perhaps in spiteful return, April tries to convince Bernice that she had the perfect childhood with her adoptive parents. As their relationship develops, each of the women undergoes life changes that ultimately affect their dynamic. At long last, April falls in love. Bernice, in contrast, is faced with reality in a way that she has never experienced.
Although adoption can be a difficult subject for some writers, Lipman handles it with grace and elegance. She does not shy away from potentially uncomfortable scenarios; rather, she approaches them with humor and compassion.
Impressively, Elinor Lipman's work has been compared to Jane Austen's by some critics. Along with Lipman's witty and insightful character development, she skillfully weaves social commentary and satire into her work, just as Austen did.
Some of Lipman's other novels are Isabel's Bed, My Latest Grievance, and The Inn at Lake Devine. She won the New England Book Award for Fiction in 2001. Then She Found Me, written in 1990, was made into a major motion picture in 2007 starring Helen Hunt, Matthew Broderick, Colin Firth, and Bette Midler.