Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Barren Bitches

Welcome to my stop on the Barren Bitches Book Brigade. Please help yourself to cookies and punch. (Careful, I spiked the punch.) Oh, and sorry about the dog, but I suppose it could have been worse. A Jehovah's Witness got her at full bore once right after she'd been rolling around in the mud. Come to think of it, they haven't stopped here since. But anyway, happy you could stop by.

This cycle, we read The Mistress's Daughter by AM Homes. I really liked it, and I'm not just saying that because the author might actually read this.

The book is a very honest, very raw description of the author's encounters with her birthparents. Biomom first contacted her when she was in her 30's. It very quickly becomes clear in the book that her birthmother is both fragile and life-sucking. How to describe Biodad. . .um, I think "seedy" is the perfect word. Unfortunately, AM Homes really seemed to want it to work with him, and she experienced a lot of heartache because of it. I spent the entire book waiting for that "feel good" moment when she told him to fuck off. I was pulling for her to tell him that he wasn't worthy of her. And he wasn't. He had been a married store manager and had an affair with Biomom when she was a teenage store clerk. The affair went on for a long time, but Biodad stayed with his wife. Sadly, my (her?) feel good moment didn't come. She conducted herself as a respectable adult and wrote a best seller about it instead. See? The best revenge IS living well.

In all seriousness, it is so hard when the people we are biologically related to don't live up to our hopes and dreams for them, and I'm sad for her that she went through that. She didn't deserve that. No one does.

So, without further ado, here's a little Q and A for you:

Why do you think the author's biological father went through the DNA testing if he was still going to go along pretending she didn't exist? How did you react to that emotionally as the reader?

I'm rather practical, so I didn't take too much offense to the DNA test request. After all, it had been three decades, and Biomom wasn't the most stable individual in the world. What if he'd invited the author into his family, only to later discover she wasn't actually related at all? That would've been weird. His behavior after the results came back made me want to kick his ass, though. Totally uncalled for. He could've at least owned the fact that he couldn't go there, and let her move on, instead of tossing her crumbs by surreptitiously meeting her in hotels.

I think in hindsight, he requested the DNA testing for one of two reasons: One, he figured there was a fair chance that she wasn't his, and that would put an easy end to things, if she wasn't. Or two, he wanted to be sure and intended to incorporate her into his family if she WAS his daughter, but then he just couldn't deal with the results when he got to that point. He would've had to admit he gave up a baby at around the same time he had one of his fully acknowledged kids with his wife. He doesn't seem like a particularly strong person, and it takes a strong person to own the kinds of things he did.

Genealogy -- the quest to learn more about her birth family's history -- forms a large part of the latter half of the book. On page 152, the author notes, "I remind myself that the quest to answer the question Who am I? is not unique to the adoptee." How much do you know about your own family history? Is it something that interests you? How has it influenced your decisions related to infertility treatment (if at all)?

I know little about my family's history beyond my grandparent's generation. I find genealogy only mildly interesting. It hasn't influenced my decisions at all, because I believe the question of "who am I?" is found in the faces of the people who love you and the life you've created for youself, and not in the faces of those who may have created you. A true family is created by a history of caring and sharing, and not by chromosomal connection.

Reading the book encouraged me to think of my own family "secrets." For example, most members of my extended family want to hush up any discussion of IF, as though it's a contagious disease. Do you think that secrets strengthen a family or tear it apart and, how does your family process secrets?

Ah, this is an easy one. Secrets certainly don't strengthen a family and may not tear it apart, but they eat at the person who is the subject of them and may just destroy THAT person. Open, honest dialogue can hurt short-term, but it can also prevent a lifetime of heartache.

Well, thank you for coming. Here's your coat.
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (with author participation!)

5 comments:

loribeth said...

Thanks for some great insights. Love your comments about teh best revenge, lol. I found myself wondering whether the biofather's family is aware of the book & if so what their reaction was.

It was obvious to me that the DNA test showed she was indeed his daughter (although looking at the strong resemblance in the book's photos, that's already pretty clear), because if it wasn't, he could have just told her & used that as an excuse for cutting her off. I think perhaps his wife (who clearly wasn't thrilled about the whole thing) put her foot down, & in the end, he just didn't want the disruption that acknowledging the author's existence would bring to his cozy little world.

seattlegal said...

THanks for your answers. I really like your answer to the second question.

Like Loribeth, I also wonder what the biofather's reaction was to the book.

The Town Criers said...

I am utterly and completely in love with this thought: "I believe the question of "who am I?" is found in the faces of the people who love you and the life you've created for yourself, and not in the faces of those who may have created you."

Lori said...

Great punch, Queenie!

When you mentioned that the Biomom wasn't very stable, I remembered that she is such a sad side story to the book.

I like what you said about secrets.

Nice stop on the tour!

JuliaS said...

I just highlighted and copied the same quote Mel did from your post, got set to use it in my comment and realized she had already beat me to it!

Oh well.

Nicely done.