In his debut memoir, Mulkey tells how he forged a relationship with his biological father and brother, discovered a vast network of extended family, and underwent all the upheaval and soul-searching along the way.
Mulkey grew up knowing he was adopted and that his mother was a young, unwed Canadian woman who traveled to Oregon to give birth and sign over her rights to her newborn son to his adoptive family. It was only as a college undergraduate that he discovered the whereabouts of his biological father and brother. Though his biological mother had died, Mulkey decided to make contact with what was left of his family, and in so doing, he was plunged into the midst of not only an identity crisis, but a complicated family feud that played out over three countries and two continents. He endured the abusive, negligent behavior of his birth father, Giulio, along with a competitive rivalry with his brother, Paul. Increasingly, the author found himself negotiating a minefield of accusation and ill feeling among Giulio, his adoptive family, his biological mother’s family, and his boisterous and loving extended family in Italy. Mulkey grappled with depression and financial setbacks as he worked to determine his loyalties and his ever unfolding sense of identity. Mulkey’s voice is engaging from the start, and his ability to communicate humor and absurdity amid heartbreak is admirable, as when he tells of being terrified by his cousin Sergio’s impromptu re-enactment of a scene from The Shining after Mulkey took him to a shooting location for the film earlier in the day. While detailed depictions and character sketches engage, the more ruminative analysis can be repetitive. For instance, at the end of the book, Mulkey realizes that he was “fiercely envious” of his brother’s success, as if it were a sudden revelation rather than an oft-repeated defining characteristic of their relationship.
A somewhat repetitive but endearing story of an adoptee’s struggle to forgive old wounds and redefine his senses of self and family.