by A.M. Homes
Reviewed by Barbara Free, Karen
Brugge, and Jenna Wiley
book brought about mixed reactions from those who read it for this review.
We encourage readers to approach it with open minds and draw their own
I purchased this book, expecting a fresh story
about an adult adoptees reunion with her birth mother, and possibly
her birth father. It was not at all what I had expected. The author, a writer
of fiction herself (In a Country of Mothers, e.g.), opens the
book with a few pictures of herself as a child and her adoptive family during
her childhood. Then it begins with her adoptive parents telling her, at age
31, that her birth mother has contacted them, looking for her. She is upset
that they seemed to think they had the right to tell her, or to withhold
that information from her. They have already told her adoptive brother (their
birth son). They are adamant that they will not tell her adoptive grandmother.
Her adoptive mother seems to think its all about herThink
of how I feel. I cant even tell my own mother. I cant get any
comfort from her. Its awful. The adoptive father seems only a
shadowy figure in this book.
The authors birth mother contacts her
and tries to meet her, but Ms. Homes is afraid, does not want to see her.
She learns that her adoptive parents knew more about her birth mother than
they ever told her. Indeed, some of the neighbors once saw her. Instead of
agreeing to meet her birth mother, she finds an uncle and parks outside his
house. Later, she complains that her mother is stalking her! As the book
progresses, she does meet her mother, and her birth father. In fact, she
meets with him several times, although secretly. All of the people involved
in this story seem self-absorbed, and although her birth mother does seem
a bit peculiar, she is obviously a traumatized woman. When the adoptive mother
receives word that the birth mother has died, she informs the author in a
rather off-handed way. Only some time after her death does the author seem
to feel some compassion for her. She seems unsure of her own feelings about
both birth family and adoptive family until the end of the book; only after
having a daughter of her own (she is vague about those circumstances) does
she begin to see herself in the context of those to whom she is related by
This book is sure to provoke much discussion
by those who read it. I could not, as a therapist and adoption triad member,
recommend it as a persons first book on the subject of search and reunion,
as it reports such unsatisfying reunions.
find it difficult to say how I feel about this book, which I just finished.
At first I wasnt liking it at all. A.M. Homes spent too much time jumping
around and it was hard to follow. I felt that everyone involved in this story
was selfish and not very open to each other, even (or especially) the
As the book continued, however, I began to
like it more, and I loved the last chapter, about her grandmothers
table. A.M. Homes finally realizes that she is a product of four families,
and she sees that in her daughter.
is the authors story of her birth mother finding her and the relationship
she and her birth parents, and even her adoptive parents, dont
have. One person, for instance, would call and set up a meeting, but when
the time came, there was always a reason not to meet. The author complains
about her birth mother calling and invading her space, yet she herself goes
by her birth fathers home and watches it. She wants to go through his
closets and cupboards (after she meets him), yet doesnt want her
half-brother (fathers son) to come to a public reading of one of her
books, although he did call first to ask. She tells him not to come. Then
she is unhappy that he no longer has anything to do with her after that.
Her birth father insists she and he have DNA
testing to make sure she is his daughter, but does not give her a copy of
the results, and she does not insist on them at the time. Later, she wants
the results in order to join the D.A.R. and he refuses to give them to her,
although she paid for hers. She also does some extensive genealogical research
on both birth family and adoptive family, but does not really seem to connect.
She is disappointed that her birth ancestors were not important
people. She complains that her ancestors dont know her!
(Ancestora person from whom one is descended and who is usually more
remote than a grandparent [Websters Desk Dictionary of the English
Language, N.Y., Gramercy Books, 1983, p. 30].) If a person is dead, how
could they know about a descendent? In the chapter on research she has done
on her adoptive grandmother, she seems to be trying to put herself into that
lineage in a biological way. At the end of the book, she mentions having
a daughter, but it seems to be almost an afterthought.
There are more questions than answers in this
book, and it may leave the reader wondering exactly why she wrote it. I would
not recommend this book to either adoptive or birth parents, or adoptees,
who are just starting a search or who may be in a difficult relationship
with birth or adoptive family.
Excerpted from the October 2007
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2007 Operation Identity