Monday, April 30, 2007


The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes

After reading a review of this book, I was eager to read it. It is the story of A.M. (Amy) Homes, an author and an adopted child. This memoir explores her experiences as she learns that her biological mother would like to contact her and her journey through reunion. As an adoptive parent, I am interested in reading about the world of adoption, especially from the perspective of adoptees. I hope that buy reading their stories in print or online that I can be a better parent to Emma as she grows older.

The Mistress’s Daughter is a well written memoir. You experience the roller coaster of emotions that go along with the reunion experience. It’s especially heartbreaking because it doesn’t come with the fairytale, TV movie ending that always seems to be expected to make the book worthwhile. There is honesty found in this book that is painful to read.

My initial reaction to the book was lukewarm. After Amy decides to go through the boxes she took from her birthmother’s house after her death, it seemed to me to lose focus. I appreciated her interest in her biological and adoptive genealogies, but her need to the stories of ancestors took away from her story. I was enraged as she was when her birthfather for not being recognizing her. His stubborn refusal to provide this simple information kept her from being a member of the Daughters of the Americas, where she hoped to learn more about her heritage. Still, pages upon pages of legal questions written by her lawyers to be asked to her father about his life were a mistake to have in the book. The accusations were not answered and it wasn’t clear if she took the man to court. It felt like reading a book that didn’t know where to end and didn’t want to end.

As I think further about her story and the way in which it is told in The Mistress’s Daughter, I like it better. Just as she wrote honestly about her adoptive mother and her reactions to this situation, Amy was honest about herself. It wasn’t explicitly written, but she did not hide the fact that she frequently met with her birthfather and even subjected herself to a blood test in hopes of meeting his “family.” She kept putting off a face-to-face meeting her birthmother. Then, she met with her for lunch only once. Amy held her birthmother to a higher standard. Her mother had to live up to all the mental pictures and stories Amy had created for her and she miserably missed the mark. Her birthfather had nothing to live up to. She bristled when she didn’t seem to live up to his expectations, but that made her want to be more of what he wanted her to be. It didn’t stop her from treating her mother in the same way. It was only after her death that Amy regretted not spending more time with her, even if the woman seemed so needy all of the time.

Adoption is as unique as each adoptive relationship. In the same manner, a book is unique each time it is read by a new person. If you have read this book, please leave a comment. I would be interested to know how others have reacted to her story.


Beth said...

I HAVE read this book, because you listed it here. I just finished it.

I was so ambivalent about it...I feel as if she's so tightly controlling her pain that we don't really get to know what exactly she's feeling.

And I think her biological parents are two of the most mixed up people imaginable. I hope A.M.'s adoptive parents were and are all that parents should be.

There are many, many wonderful books out there about adoption. I am the mother of a much wanted daughter, adopted after twenty years of longing--and she is the fifth generation of adoption in my family--I am the fourth.

So yeah...these things are pretty personal for me. When we were in the pre-adoption classes and they spoke of the primal wound, I sure took it seriously, knowing what she was going to go through.

I've blogged plenty about it (as well as many other things, of course.)

If you haven't read "Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother" by Jana Wolff, do so. I got that one just before our daughter was born, and there were parts of it I felt I had written myself.

I also liked Ann Kiemel Anderson's books, because, like me, she dealt with horrific infertility issues before adopting her four sons.

Every year on Betsy's A-day, we read "Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born" to her classmates. It is a precious tradition that she is so proud to continue.

Jennifer said...


I am honored that you read this book because I posted about it here. I think that you are right about her being very guarded about her emotions.

I will definitely check out your blog and read about your adoption experiences. I have blogged about mine in my other blog - Our Shady Tree. We have an open domestic adoption and it has worked so well for us. Emma's maternal birth family is like our extended family. It has been a true blessing. I am praying that this will help her. Reading Homes' feelings about being adopted hurt me for Emma. I know that there will be pain there and I can't keep it from her. Truth be told, I really shouldn't even try. That pain is hers. Taking it away would be akin to denying her story. I just will be there to love her and hold her. That was what I was put in her life to do.

I look forward to getting to know you better. I'm hoping to get back into reading other blogs. I've been bogged down by other things lately.

Thanks again for reading my blog and leaving your comments. I will check out the other book you mentioned. We have "Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born" and Emma loves that book. It won't be long before we can read them at her school. They grow up so fast.

Susan said...

This book depressed the heck out of me. I thought that the author was very cold, and there was not a shred of love expressed either to or from ANY of her parents - adoptive or birthparents. I found that pretty sad. I thought she came across as fairly harsh, fairly needy,and fairly incapable of human connection.

All that said, she's an incredibly talented writer, so the story was very compelling, but I found it really sad. I've reviewed it on my blog too.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for being honest about getting depressed by this book. I was concerned that my lukewarm feelings were because I was an adoptive mother sensitive to how her a-mom was written. I felt most badly for her birth mother. I don't actually care if she was mentally unstable. I wonder if instead of being selfish she just didn't know how to invite people into an intimate relationship with her? I can't remember if I mentioned this in my review (isn't that terrible?) but she clearly placed the "blame" for everything on her birth mother. She allowed her birth father to call her names, she avoided her, and, as far as I could tell, ran out on their only real meeting because she was uncomfortable - but she sat through a blood test??? It seems like it's always the mother who gets blamed for everything. At the same time, I've never been an adoptive person and I don't want to judge anyone unfairly.