By: Angie Haddock
Julie is adopted. She is also a twin. Because their adoption was closed, she and her sister lack both a health history and their adoption papers―which becomes an issue for Julie when, at forty-eight years old, she finds herself facing several serious health issues.
Julie’s search for her birth relatives spans years and involves a search agency, a PI, a confidential intermediary, a judge, an adoption agency, a social worker, and a genealogist. By journey’s end, what began as a simple desire for a family medical history has evolved into a complicated quest―one that unearths secrets, lies, and family members that are literally right next door.
The Goodreads description gives away the entire plot of this memoir, really… but of course, there are tons of juicy details and emotional entanglements within the pages.
When the story begins, Julie is actually resistant to the idea of trying to find her birth parents. She is largely afraid of rocking the boat with the parents who raised her. Her husband, Steve, pushes her into starting this journey, though – for her own health, and that of their four children.
She gets her twin sister to agree to split the costs with her, but Julie is going to be the person doing the work. Her dad is supportive from the beginning, but her mom is not.
While initially interested only in medical histories, Julie becomes more engrossed in the emotional aspects of her search – wondering why her birth parents gave her up, if they’ll want to meet, and whether or not she has half-siblings.
Even after trying to obtain her original birth certificate, she hits one road block after another. The first one is a big one: Her mom used an alias on her original birth certificate, and the father isn’t listed at all. Apparently this was easier to do back in the 1950s.
Working in her favor, as far as the records are concerned, is that she is a twin. There could only be so many sets of twins born on a given day at a given hospital, right?
Also working in her favor are a lot of sympathetic people within the courts, Catholic Charities, and other avenues Julie tries to reach out to for help. In addition, the family members she eventually locates often bristle at the intrusion at first – but then soften because they have adopted members of their current families, and can understand the issues from both sides.
The issues at play are, of course, the birth parents’ rights to privacy versus the adoptees’ rights to know their history.
Most of Julie’s search takes place around a decade ago. She and her sister do use a DNA-testing kit to see if that gets them any leads, but to no avail. I have to imagine that the increase in use of such sites (and kits) in recent years is now shaking up the implied privacy that birth parents assumed they had in earlier eras.
(Backlist bump on that topic: “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro.)
Overall, this was a good read. Not too heavy, but it can tug at the heartstrings here and there. It might be even more emotional for you if you’ve gone through something similar.