The Mistress’s Daughter: a memoir by A.M. Homes
“This memoir reads like fiction.” That was just about the only thought I had during the first half of this book. A.M. Homes, Amy, is apparently well known for her fiction, and it shows here. If I ever come across any, I’ll probably pick it up, which from me, is high praise…I don’t read much fiction. This book was added to my book pile by my college memoir course, so it was required reading. That also means I had to really dig into it.
Amy always knew she was adopted, and struggled to find how she fit in with her adopted family. As an adult, her biological mother tracked her down. And through the feeling each other out phase of reuniting, she got in touch with her bioligical father. Neither reunion happened quickly, or easily. Neither parent ended up being who Amy wished for, or needed. The lack of connection she felt in her adopted home continued right on through her reunions. Amy’s response was to try and find that connection in her roots.
And that is where she lost me. As an author I understand her long middle section about tracking down her family lines, but it was such a departure from her fiction-esque pacing that it was hard to get through. I respect her including the little life stories from all the probably-not-her relatives she came across, but it didn’t read, as she said, the need to share the stories of these people, not let them die with her. It reads, to me, as poorly made add-on rooms to her house. Shanties nailed to her sweet suburban bungalow. Her search lasted years. Reading those sections felt like weeks.
There is a section where Amy is trying to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, just as an anchor to the info she could gain from their geneology services. But her years long seperation from her bio-dad comes back to haunt her when she needs a document he has, and he won’t give it up. She has lawyers take the lead, and whether she gets them, through the courts or by simple pressure, is unclear. And the story she tells from possible mock deposition questions is a neat trick for a memior. I’m OK not knowing how much was her wish fulfilment and how much actually went down. I’m OK not knowing if she ever joined the DAR. [My guess she let the whole idea go.]
Amy ends, after years of searching, with the family she always knew. The grandmother [her adopted mother’s mother] that was the matriarch of the clan. And finally with the birth of her own daughter.
We all search for where we belong. Adopted kids clearly have a rough go of it. What Amy seems to be telling us, is that home is where you make it. With whom you choose to make it with. Good news for a guy serving a life sentence. Most of my family is the people I have chosen to add to my life. I am not adopted. I love my biological family, they love me. But how much can they be a part of my day to day life? Prison walls are meant to keep us in, but it keeps them out. Amy reminded me it is OK that a good portion of my family is in here with me.
But Amy, outside the world of adopters and adoptees, I’m not sure who I would recomend this book to read. Sorry. I hope to come across some of your fiction soon.