In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa–now a teenager and one of Nate’s students–lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women’s shelter, her friendship with a troubled prostitute raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parent’s love and care, Willa can’t shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness.
Joe has other secrets, among them his profession–he makes pornographic films–and his affair with Claire, a feminist artist who recently returned to the area. Joe and Claire stand on opposites side of the issues of feminism, sex, and art, but in the end their affair fortifies them as individuals and they gain strength from each other’s differences.
If Joe and Claire are healed by sex, then Pioneer’s headmaster Jack Heath and his wife Maggie are destroyed by it. Jack’s charming exterior hides the twisted mind of a sexual predator. He begins an affair with Petra, a young prostitute, while fantasizing about his student Willa. Meanwhile, Maggie must keep her husband’s pathological past well hidden.
Somebody Else’s Daughter is filled with doppelgangers. Pairs of characters mirror each other forcing each one to confront the darker side of his or her psyche and question their own identity. Nate and Joe (Willa’s biological and adoptive fathers) both fall in love with Claire. Jack and Joe are both fathers of teenage girls, each with his own secrets to keep. Willa and Petra are both orphaned girls, yet one has been given a caring home and the other turns to prostitution.
The characters become more entwined as first scandal and then tragedy strikes. As the story draws to its gripping conclusion, each character must make a decision that defines who they are. Somebody Else’s Daughter is a suspenseful tale and a tightly woven psychological drama that examines, as Joe Golding observes, how “in a matter of seconds, based on the fickle inclinations of fate, your life could change forever.”