Apr 9, 2015

Bastards, by Mary Anna King (June 2015)

Mary Anna King wasn't always Mary Anna King. For the first part of her life, she was Mary Agnes Taylor Hall, second child of a deadbeat father and a struggling mom who gave up their last four daughters to adoption, then ended up having to give up Mary and another younger sister to their grandparents. Oklahoma City, and life with her Air Force granddad and his less than loving wife, Mimi, was a far cry from having the run of the apartment complex in South New Jersey. And even though Mary knew, intellectually, that Mimi and Granddad could care for her in a way her own parents couldn't, she still missed the mother she fiercely loved. And she always harbored the hope that eventually, when they were all adults, her adopted sisters would find her and they would be a family again.

King writes of her complicated and often unhappy childhood with searing self-awareness. Though Mimi and Granddad certainly saved her, she doesn't spare them a critical eye, particularly in regards to their treatment of her older brother Jacob and favoritism towards her younger sister Rebecca. King also paints a vivid picture of herself as a girl, then a young woman, who feels the weight of intense longing for her reunited family as well as the indebtedness she feels towards her grandparents so strongly that it manifests physically in panic attacks and severe insomnia. In the end, are all the siblings reunited? Yes, and always the reunions are joyous occasions, but King takes care to not present it as a panacea for all their problems. Being with your family is better than not, but King concludes that her self-worth must not be tied up with that perfect family happy ending. "Bastards" is moving and emotional, without wallowing in melodrama or self-pity, and sure to be of great interest to members of the adoption community.

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