A woman reconnects with her biological parents and addresses her challenging relationship with the father who raised her in this debut memoir.
Banis was born in Boston in the summer of 1968 and was immediately given up for adoption. Her adoptive father, Diederich, was a German who experienced the horrors of World War II as a child. Lilia, her adoptive mother, hailed from an affluent Swiss family. As an infant, Banis lived briefly in Switzerland before her parents moved with her to America. Throughout her life, she writes, her relationship with her father was strained. On a fishing trip during her adolescence, she says that he remarked to her, “I should have adopted a boy.” In high school, Banis met Charles, whom she would later marry despite her parents’ disapproval; the couple went on to have two children. The author’s relationship with Diederich became increasingly fraught following the death of her mother from ovarian cancer. A new chapter in her life began when she met and bonded with her biological mother, Elizabeth Vornholdt, who gave her the information to track down Johnathan Bennett, her birth father. Soon after, her adoptive dad’s health began to rapidly deteriorate, and her birth mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Banis’ prose transports readers to dark places—none more so than the hospital room of her dying parent, which she describes in visceral detail: “After my dad fell into a predictable rhythm of breathing, I leaned over him and quietly told him I loved him and that I appreciated everything he ever did for me.” Her matter-of-fact style also has the power to charm, as when she describes clumsily dropping her cellphone after receiving her first message from her biological dad: “I stepped into the street after it as if my life depended on it. The light for me to cross was red, and a taxi nearly hit me because I lurched out in front of it.” Despite a smattering of comedic interludes, though, this is a desperately sad story. Still, its message is one of hope and forgiveness, which will surely offer strength to those facing similar challenges.
A heart-rending remembrance that lays bare complex familial relationships.