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The Mistress's Daughter: A Memoir [Format Kindle]

A.M. Homes
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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From Publishers Weekly

Jane Adams turns her considerable talents to Homes's memoir about meeting her biological parents when she was in her early 30s. Adams captures the narrator and all the members of both the adoptive and biological families. Her rendition of Homes is so smart and urbane yet wary that listeners might assume that Homes herself is telling her own story. Ellen Ballman, the biological mother, is portrayed as Auntie Mame gone bad-her boisterous voice quickly descends from that of a woman overcome with joy at hearing her daughter to whiny demands to be taken care of. Perhaps Ellen is a bit too shrill-almost anyone would hang up after hearing this voice on the other end of a phone. Adams portrays Norman Hecht, also referred to as "the Father," with a voice as large as his considerable fortune; he cons his daughter into taking a DNA test, then refuses to give her the results. Even Adams can't make the second half of the book exciting, as she reads page after page of questions planned for a deposition. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 15).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com

Reviewed by Michael Mewshaw

In 2004 the New Yorker published an excerpt from A.M. Homes's memoir, The Mistress's Daughter. Stylish, provocative and deeply personal, the piece dealt with the author's adoption and reunion with her biological parents. Such stories often have the cloying inevitability of Hallmark cards, but Homes deployed the same gimlet eye and ironic sensibility that distinguish her fiction. The book, which was said to be forthcoming, held out tantalizing promise.

Homes's birth mother, Ellen, had sought her out, seemingly driven less by the desire to meet the child she had given up than by personal demons. "You should adopt me and take good care of me," Ellen declared. When her baffled daughter didn't respond enthusiastically enough, Ellen phoned on Valentine's Day and told her, "You can just go to the roof of your building and jump off."

As a teenager in Washington, Ellen had worked for a wealthy, older married man who took her as his mistress, strung her along with promises to leave his wife, then dumped her when she became pregnant. It gradually crosses Homes's mind that Ellen may be more interested in reconnecting with her ex-lover than with her.

As for Homes's biological father, Norman, he arranges to rendezvous with Homes in a hotel bar and gives the creepy impression that he might shift his lecherous feelings to his daughter. Like Ellen, he has no interest in Homes's needs or emotions. When not treating her as a tart, he infantilizes her, sending a gold locket for her 32nd birthday, a gift that's "more like pre-jewelry, like a training bra." Promising to accept her into his family and introduce her to her half-siblings, he asks only that she submit to a DNA test. But when the test proves his paternity, he distances himself. It dawns on Homes that he had been hoping for an excuse to exclude her from his family and estate.

While Norman keeps Homes in a separate compartment of his life, much as he did with his mistress, Ellen intrudes at every opportunity, even stalking Homes at literary events. When Ellen suffers serious medical problems, she expects Homes to donate a kidney. Not surprisingly, Homes reacts with a mixture of curiosity and revulsion, and a pulse of rage starts to beat against the sassy attitude the author tries to strike. When irony proves inadequate, the harried daughter pulls away. Yet after Ellen dies, Homes feels haunted by "the profound loss of a piece of myself that I never knew, a piece that I pushed away because it was so frightening."

Roughly at this point, the excerpt in the New Yorker ended. Now, more than two years later, with the complete book in hand, one suspects that Homes had difficulty discovering material that lived up to the early chapter. Seven years after Ellen's death, Homes unpacks the poor woman's personal effects, and when this doesn't lead her to deeper understanding, she falls back on fiction and imagines Ellen's love affair with her father. A friend rightly objects, "You're making it up." To which the author lamely responds, "The only other option is for someone to tell me how it was, what really happened."

Actually, there were alternatives. If she was contractually obligated to produce a book, she might have made a more determined effort to track down sources who could tell her "what really happened." Instead, like a diligent grad student or an amateur genealogist, she turns from people to paper, from dramatic scenes to a computer screen, from factual research to endless Googling. And in the process her memoir disperses into a pattern of unconnected dots, like a newspaper photograph held too close to the eye.

Near the end, it appears that she'll sue Norman and through legal discovery obtain not just a copy of her DNA test, but vital family information that she -- and the reader -- yearns for. Meticulously, she sets down 15 pages of questions for a possible deposition, but then never supplies a single answer, never explains what became of the dispute. Closing with another unsatisfying digression, this one about her adoptive grandmother and her own daughter, she makes a reader wonder whether she might have been wiser to leave things as they stood with the appearance of that excellent piece in the New Yorker.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 798 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 238 pages
  • Editeur : Granta Books (13 septembre 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1862079307
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862079304
  • ASIN: B008YU1NGI
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°40.733 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
4.0 étoiles sur 5 récit autobiographique d'une enfant adoptée 1 juin 2011
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
L'auteur narre dans cet ouvrage les étapes-clé de son développement à travers son expérience d'enfant adoptée. Les liens tissés avec la famille d'adoption, les relations avec les parents biologiques sont analysés avec claivoyance, donnant au récit un aspect poignant qui ne peut laisser indifférent.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 étoiles sur 5  84 commentaires
54 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brutally honest and touching 28 avril 2007
Par bookarts - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
While I think it is possible for anyone to appreciate the beautiful writing and the touching story of The Mistress's Daughter, it surely carries special meaning for adoptees. I am quite sure that I am not the only adoptee who nodded her head throughout the book as Homes articulated so many of the thoughts I have had about myself and my family through the years. Another reviewer complained that Homes was only speculating about her birth parent's lives in the second half of the book, yet that was exactly the point. After years with thousands of questions and no answers, adoptees who have met their birth parents are usually met with the disappointing realization that they will never have all the answers. The speculation never ends. Homes' book was note-perfect in capturing that and so many other aspects of the adoption experience. I usually give away my books after I read them, but I will be reading this one again.

I feel compelled to address one other issue. As an adoptee, I found one reviewer's headline, "A Case For Abortion", to be incredibly offensive. I am pro-choice, but telling an adoptee they should have been aborted simply because you don't like what they wrote is disgusting. I too question the motives of some of the negative reviewers, some of whom clearly did not read the book.
49 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Recommended 10 avril 2007
Par Nancy J. Mumford - Publié sur Amazon.com
Interesting that the two negative reviews posted so far come from people in Washington - wonder who they are and how they are connected to the story??

I read this book in about 3 hours in one sitting and was absolutely fascinated. Rather than being a typical story of an adopted child who rediscovers her wonderful birth parents, A.M. Homes is truthful about her fears and the emotional rollercoaster this information sends her on. Her relationships with her newly discovered biological parents are unsatisfying for various reasons and she struggles with her feelings and definition of what a family is. I thought the book offered a very interesting perspective and was well done. Recommended!
32 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 If you love her fiction--you'll be further impressed 6 avril 2007
Par subway reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
I couldn't put down---I've been reading Homes work for many years--going back to her first novel Jack--and on through the terrifying End of Alice--the smart stories in Things You Should Know and last year's inspiring, This Book Will Save Your Life. Now Homes is letting us into her life--giving her readers the back story on who she is. And it's a real case of truth being stranger than fiction. I admire her for letting us in, for sharing the incredible sadness of finding out who her biological parents were--both of them seem soo incredibly self involved, narcisistic--in the end it's a good thing that Homes' was adopted by a family who seemed to truly "get" her and to support her artistic endeavors. This is a heartbreaking and wonderful read--and really informative for those of us who don't know the world of adoption--of searching and reunion with lost family. I really enjoyed the second half of the book--which takes the reader on a kind of wild ride though the land of internet geneology and search for self.
21 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Reality of Adoption 11 avril 2007
Par Lynn V. - Publié sur Amazon.com
I was eagerly awaiting the release of this book. I just finished it and as an adoptee, I think A.M. Homes got the tone just right. She honestly deals with the feelings that are prevalent in many adoptees. Hers was an interesting story without the happy ending, but she seems to come away stronger for it and realize she is a composite of nature and nurture, not just a biological product of one set of parents. I agree that the second half is a little scattered and not as concise as in the brilliant first half, previously published in the New Yorker. As for those reviewers who criticized her "imaginings," that is pretty much all most adoptees have. There is little reality to their existence, just what they have been told. Recommended for adoptees, anyone who is struggling with identity issues or those who just appreciate an interesting story.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Turns on its head the conventional account of an adopted child 29 mai 2007
Par Bookreporter - Publié sur Amazon.com
A Google search of the term "genealogy" yields more than 47 million hits. With the growth of the Internet, it is indisputable that the impulse to trace one's ancestors has become a source of passionate engagement for many. Paralleling that phenomenon is the explosive popularity of the memoir genre. These trends converge with considerable power in A.M. Homes's frank and moving new memoir, THE MISTRESS'S DAUGHTER.

Recognized as a keen-eyed observer of contemporary society in her fiction (THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS, THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE), Homes shifts her vision inward with equal acuity in this work. During a visit to her adoptive parents in Washington, D.C. at Christmas 1992, she learns --- through the family lawyer who had arranged her private adoption in 1961 --- that her mother, Ellen Ballman, who gave birth to her at the age of 22, wants to make contact. Homes's birth was the culmination of a relationship Ellen had had with a married employer almost 20 years her senior.

At first, Homes's engagement with her mother is unsettling, as Ellen lurks around the fringes of the author's appearance at a Washington bookstore and peppers her with phone calls and letters. Their first real meeting, at New York's Plaza Hotel, is poignant, if awkward. After devouring a lobster dinner, Ellen seeks her daughter's forgiveness for giving her up. Homes readily grants it in that encounter, but tensions between them soon emerge. Ellen persists in reaching out to a child who is unwilling to reciprocate the feelings of a woman she considers strange and difficult.

Concealing the seriousness of her medical condition from her daughter, Ellen dies of kidney failure in 1998, and Homes waits until 2005 to open the four boxes of papers and personal effects she removes from her mother's house after her death. When she does, she discovers a bizarre assortment of materials that reveal a life combining incidents of petty crime with the struggle of a single woman simply to survive after her lover's devastating rejection and the loss of her child.

As needy as Ellen is, Homes paints an even more problematic picture of her father, Norman Hecht. He's a respected businessman and father of four, but, as portrayed by Homes, he's little more than a handsome, self-absorbed lout. Most of their encounters take place in hotel lobbies at his request, as if their own relationship has an illicit aspect to it. Shortly after their first meeting, Norman insists that they undergo DNA testing that reveals the near certainty of his paternity. Later, when Homes almost sheepishly applies for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, made possible by the English ancestry she traces to the mid-16th century through her paternal grandmother, Norman does everything possible to deny that he's her father.

Homes's prose is spare and uninflected, occasionally bringing to mind the work of Joan Didion ("To be adopted is to be adapted, to be amputated and sewn back together again. Whether or not you regain full function, there will always be scar tissue."). Repeatedly, she returns to this theme of brokenness or the absence of wholeness that has plagued her as a child of adoption. There is considerable emotion in the story's telling, but for the most part it bubbles below the surface of the narrative. The memoir's seriousness is leavened with occasional humor, most notably in Homes's account of Norman's difficulty finding an acceptable payment method for the DNA test.

Homes devotes her final chapter to a loving tribute to her adoptive mother's mother, a vibrant woman who died "unexpectedly" at the age of 99. She writes movingly of her grandmother's inspiration that resulted in Homes giving birth to a daughter at the age of 41, after two years of considerable effort. Somehow it seems fitting that this unusual family saga will continue at least into one more generation.

What gives this memoir its originality and emotional force is that it turns on its head the conventional account of an adopted child on a quest to find her birth parents and instead offers the story of an adult involuntarily introduced to them when they re-enter her life. Despite her initial lack of inclination to discover her roots, Homes finds the journey she's launched on by her birth parents' unexpected appearance a transformative and ultimately rewarding one. In the end, she offers a fitting benediction to this flawed and all-too-human pair: "Did I choose to be found? No. Do I regret it? No. I couldn't not know."

--- Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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