Law and Conversation

April 26, 2009

“The Mistress’s Daughter,” by A.M. Homes

Filed under: Books and writing — Helen Gunnarsson @ 2:26 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been wanting to read this memoir since it came out and finally got to it yesterday after straining my back scotched my other plans for the day.

A.M. Homes, whose first name is Amy, is a writer, now living in New York, but originally from the D.C. area. She’s been published by Granta, Harper’s, and the New Yorker, among others, and writes regularly for Vanity Fair, according to the book jacket.

I haven’t read any of her fiction and remember being extremely put off by reviews of her novel “The End Of Alice” when it came out because of its graphic violence; it may be terrific, but, because of its subject matter, I’m not inclined to read it. I enjoyed her memoir very much, though.

In this book, Homes relates the story of finding her birth parents. She wasn’t looking for them, and evidently had great adoptive parents; her birth mother found her. As she depicts them, both of her birth parents turned out to be really problematic, selfish people. Her birth mother was very emotionally needy and wanted Homes to take care of her. Her birth father, who was married with children already when he began his affair with her birth mother, who at the time was a teenager, insisted on a DNA test, told her the results showed that she was his daughter, but then refused to give her a copy. He also treated Homes like a mistress, not a daughter, insisting on meeting her at crummy restaurants and hotels and suggesting that she call him on his car phone so his wife wouldn’t know. Homes, who names him in her book, had enough self-respect to become fed up with his behavior.

Discovering her birth parents led her to genealogical research on both her birth family and her adoptive family. On p. 152 Homes comments “In this room [in the New York City Municipal Archives, where she and others are researching their ancestors] everyone is looking for something that will help them either confirm or deny part of what they believe about themselves.” Her memoir is worth reading for her thoughtful description and analysis of her birth parents’ behavior and her own reactions.

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