Donna has grown up quiet and cosseted by her foster parents, an elderly couple who raised her in their Quaker tradition where she learned not to ask too many questions but merely accept what came to her. All that changes the night of college graduation, when her college sweetheart Richie proposes.
Richie’s proposal is both good news and bad news for Donna. Good news in that she loves him—they’ve been college sweethearts since freshmen year. But bad news because Richie’s DAR mom (Daughters of the American Revolution) immediately starts asking questions about Donna’s family, questions she’s unable to answer since her parents died when she was six years old.
And, this being 1979 the answers are not easy to come by.
So when Donna learns that her mother is from a small town in Northern Ireland, she and her best friend Molly and set off for what becomes a backpacking odyssey through Europe, searching for clues and stories about her relatives, while learning to reconcile her fairy tale fantasy of her dead parents with their immigrant realities.
Donna’s odyssey takes her from Northern Ireland, the epicenter of the Irish “troubles” in 1979, through France and into Italy, where she finally confronts the difference between the DNA she’s inherited and the direction in which she’s headed.
Donna’s DNA is a classic coming-of-age story about family and those who become family; a story about lost ancestors and new loves, immigration and second chances; and a story about friendship and the journey along the road.