childhood and youth, children of single parents, family reunions, New Jersey, Oklahoma, poor families, sisters
The cover of this book, a photograph of a child’s face peeking over the edge of a box, will immediately grab the attention of the reader. And of course, the title seems a bit sensational. However, this memoir of a little girl growing up in poverty in Camden, New Jersey is moving and ultimately heartwarming.
Mary and her older brother, Jacob, are the first two of seven siblings, the last five of whom are each given away shortly after birth. Or as the author describes the situation, my parents were “great at making babies, but not so great at holding on to them.” When her mother is no longer able to even care for Mary and Jacob, the siblings move to Oklahoma where they are adopted by their maternal grandparents.
Because of their absence, Mary is continually haunted by her phantom sisters and her birth mother. Finally, as she reaches college age, the missing family members are reunited one by one. This is a poignant and at times wickedly funny account of a young woman’s search for her family and ultimately, herself.
“This searing book explores how identity forms love, and love, identity. Written in engrossing, intimate prose, it makes us rethink how blood’s deep connections relate to the attachments of proximity.” (Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree)
“An impressive debut. . . . [Mary Anna King’s] prose moves with lyrical wit and cultural texture as she persists with all of her protean self to figure out the nature of family and the deepest human connections amid trauma and confusion.” (Peter Balakian, author of Black Dog of Fate)