An engaging, endearing chronicle of a woman’s quest to find her origins.


In this debut memoir, a woman’s hunt for her birthparents becomes a search for herself.

McGue and her twin sister, Jenny, were adopted as infants. Because it was a closed adoption, they never knew the identities of their birthparents—or their family health histories. When, at age 48, Julie thought she might have breast cancer, the author decided it would be best for her and her children to know what hereditary diseases existed in her family. She got Jenny on board with the search, though McGue worried about offending her adoptive parents. It turned out reassuring her family was the easy part: The hard part was all the secrecy surrounding the adoption. She knew her birth name—Ann Marie Jensen—and that she was adopted through St. Vincent’s Orphanage. Beyond that, the trail went cold. The author’s attempts to track down the “Jensens,” whomever they might be, ended up spanning eight years and involving all manner of obstacles, agencies, and investigators. It was never fully about health records, as McGue admitted to herself: “The desire for medical information involves not just locating my birth parents but also communicating with them, and that realization has led to fantasies about meeting and getting to know them.” What began as a pursuit of genetic information soon became an exploration into the core of the author’s identity. McGue writes in an urgent, fluid prose that captures the highs and lows of her expectations and disappointments. Here, she and her sister meet with Ray the “History Cop”: “Perhaps the negative karma I imagined did follow Jenny and me in from the parking lot, because when we lay out our search history, Ray shakes his head. He can’t help us. Our birth mother’s alias is the problem. We need her real name to proceed.” While not precisely a page-turner, the mystery is a relatable and compelling one, and readers will enjoy learning about the Byzantine mechanisms that underlie the adoption process. McGue and her family are sympathetic and well rendered, and readers will ultimately be as anxious as the author to find out who is waiting at the end of the search.

An engaging, endearing chronicle of a woman’s quest to find her origins.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-050-5

Page Count: 282

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2020

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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