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Bastards: A Memoir

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In the early 1980s, Mary Hall is a little girl growing up in poverty in Camden, New Jersey, with her older brother Jacob and parents who, in her words, were great at making babies, but not so great at holding on to them. After her father leaves the family, she is raised among a commune of mothers in a low-income housing complex. Then, no longer able to care for the only In the early 1980s, Mary Hall is a little girl growing up in poverty in Camden, New Jersey, with her older brother Jacob and parents who, in her words, were great at making babies, but not so great at holding on to them. After her father leaves the family, she is raised among a commune of mothers in a low-income housing complex. Then, no longer able to care for the only daughter she has left at home, Mary's mother sends Mary away to Oklahoma to live with her maternal grandparents, who have also been raising her younger sister, Rebecca. When Mary is legally adopted by her grandparents, the result is a family story like no other. Because Mary was adopted by her grandparents, Mary’s mother, Peggy, is legally her sister, while her brother, Jacob, is legally her nephew. Living in Oklahoma with her maternal grandfather, Mary gets a new name and a new life. But she's haunted by the past: by the baby girls she’s sure will come looking for her someday, by the mother she left behind, by the father who left her. Mary is a college student when her sisters start to get back in touch. With each subsequent reunion, her family becomes closer to whole again. Moving, haunting, and at times wickedly funny, Bastards is about finding one's family and oneself.


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In the early 1980s, Mary Hall is a little girl growing up in poverty in Camden, New Jersey, with her older brother Jacob and parents who, in her words, were great at making babies, but not so great at holding on to them. After her father leaves the family, she is raised among a commune of mothers in a low-income housing complex. Then, no longer able to care for the only In the early 1980s, Mary Hall is a little girl growing up in poverty in Camden, New Jersey, with her older brother Jacob and parents who, in her words, were great at making babies, but not so great at holding on to them. After her father leaves the family, she is raised among a commune of mothers in a low-income housing complex. Then, no longer able to care for the only daughter she has left at home, Mary's mother sends Mary away to Oklahoma to live with her maternal grandparents, who have also been raising her younger sister, Rebecca. When Mary is legally adopted by her grandparents, the result is a family story like no other. Because Mary was adopted by her grandparents, Mary’s mother, Peggy, is legally her sister, while her brother, Jacob, is legally her nephew. Living in Oklahoma with her maternal grandfather, Mary gets a new name and a new life. But she's haunted by the past: by the baby girls she’s sure will come looking for her someday, by the mother she left behind, by the father who left her. Mary is a college student when her sisters start to get back in touch. With each subsequent reunion, her family becomes closer to whole again. Moving, haunting, and at times wickedly funny, Bastards is about finding one's family and oneself.

30 review for Bastards: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Incredibly well written. I was completely enthralled, start to finish. Full review to come. Full/Updated Review: I love memoirs. I love how unabashed they can be and how the best ones radiate an inherent, undeniable truth. What I've come to understand though, is that you can't always rely on memoirs for their literary quality; which isn't always damning but absolutely separates the good from the bad. In this memoir's case, I am very, very confident in my declaration of its greatness. Bastards Incredibly well written. I was completely enthralled, start to finish. Full review to come. Full/Updated Review: I love memoirs. I love how unabashed they can be and how the best ones radiate an inherent, undeniable truth. What I've come to understand though, is that you can't always rely on memoirs for their literary quality; which isn't always damning but absolutely separates the good from the bad. In this memoir's case, I am very, very confident in my declaration of its greatness. Bastards struck a cord with me from the very start, reminiscent of The Glass Castle, and continued to until it's conclusion. By no means is this a nice story, or any sort of proverbial "beach read" ... in fact, it is made even less so by the fact that it is SOMEONE'S story. Someone's traumatic, one of a kind, life altering, passionate, all-enduring story. I have no personal connection with Mary Anna King nor have I ever met her, but having read her story I feel as though I have cried with her, laughed with her, even felt what I would assume is a muted version her pain, along with celebrating her strength and remarkable perseverance. Bastards touched me and has undeniably left it's mark. Many, many thanks to First Reads for providing me with an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kseniya Melnik

    I don't fully agree with Leo Tolstoy's famous opening line in Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” To me, another sentence from that book rings truer, that "there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” BASTARDS, Mary Anna King's heart-breaking and heart-mending debut memoir, is about the many kinds of love that can exist within a family—a biological family, a family as defined by legal documents, a family lost, a family found. I don't fully agree with Leo Tolstoy's famous opening line in Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” To me, another sentence from that book rings truer, that "there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” BASTARDS, Mary Anna King's heart-breaking and heart-mending debut memoir, is about the many kinds of love that can exist within a family—a biological family, a family as defined by legal documents, a family lost, a family found. King's ability to look unflinchingly at loss and pain, as well as unbridled joy, unexpected kindness, and sudden connection is remarkable. Her skill in dramatizing those emotions with honestly, compassion, nuance, and humor is what makes her the real deal. BASTARDS is a testament to the fact that everything in life that matters resists ready definitions and final conclusions, and it signals the arrival of a truly singular new voice.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    This is a terrifically engrossing book that reminded me how much I love memoirs. King's personal story of being one of seven siblings to be given up for adoption while still being in touch with her birth parents is filled with drama, but she resists the trap of overdramatizing the facts or the characters, letting the reader do that work. Loved it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reese

    A king's horses and his men couldn't, according to the nursery rhyme, make post-fall Humpty Dumpty whole. But for how long did they try? And do we know if Humpty's pieces really wanted to be together again? Whatever -- Humpty is an egg, not a family. Mary Anna King's memoir, Bastards, makes clear that the scattered pieces of a broken family can come together. Yeah, we see and feel the cracks, but deep holes can be filled by the desire for wholeness. Like Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Jeannette A king's horses and his men couldn't, according to the nursery rhyme, make post-fall Humpty Dumpty whole. But for how long did they try? And do we know if Humpty's pieces really wanted to be together again? Whatever -- Humpty is an egg, not a family. Mary Anna King's memoir, Bastards, makes clear that the scattered pieces of a broken family can come together. Yeah, we see and feel the cracks, but deep holes can be filled by the desire for wholeness. Like Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle, King's interesting and provocative memoir bolstered my belief that raising a child/children should require a license that must be periodically renewed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    An unflinching look at the life of a woman who grew up in a poor family in New Jersey where her parents continued to have child after child even though they couldn't support them. Although the author and her brother and sisters were born in the early 1980s, this could have been written about a poor family in the Depression or any other time in the 20th century. When the children are with their mother, they don't have enough to eat and go running out the door with no supervision and are at the An unflinching look at the life of a woman who grew up in a poor family in New Jersey where her parents continued to have child after child even though they couldn't support them. Although the author and her brother and sisters were born in the early 1980s, this could have been written about a poor family in the Depression or any other time in the 20th century. When the children are with their mother, they don't have enough to eat and go running out the door with no supervision and are at the mercy of other kids in the neighborhood. There's so much more--about how the author does get an education and gradually reconnects with the rest of her family. What will stay with me is the little girl who loves her mother and her brother and sisters no matter how bad things are at home, and how reading and education are the gifts that earn her a better life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This is not the last time you will hear me say this, and it is definitely not the first time either. If you are going to write a memoir, the story you tell should be engaging and interesting. This story was kind of flat for me. A young girl grows up with a mother who can't take care of her kids that keep popping out, so she gives them for adoption. As an adult, our main character who is one of the kids who has a semi normal life eventually meets her siblings. The story was nicely written but This is not the last time you will hear me say this, and it is definitely not the first time either. If you are going to write a memoir, the story you tell should be engaging and interesting. This story was kind of flat for me. A young girl grows up with a mother who can't take care of her kids that keep popping out, so she gives them for adoption. As an adult, our main character who is one of the kids who has a semi normal life eventually meets her siblings. The story was nicely written but sadly there wasn't a lot of meat or a hook to keep me very interested.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Neighbors

    Finally, an adoption memoir that hit me in the clavicle. And gut. And brain. You can find my full review here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This isn’t an awful book. But I’ll say the same thing I said last time I reviewed a memoir about an adoptee connecting with her biological family: it was written too soon. By which I mean both that it seems premature, with some of the most interesting parts of the story yet to be lived, and that it leaves out much of the information I wanted to know, likely because the author and her family weren’t yet comfortable sharing so much. Mary Anna King has a complicated family: she is the second of This isn’t an awful book. But I’ll say the same thing I said last time I reviewed a memoir about an adoptee connecting with her biological family: it was written too soon. By which I mean both that it seems premature, with some of the most interesting parts of the story yet to be lived, and that it leaves out much of the information I wanted to know, likely because the author and her family weren’t yet comfortable sharing so much. Mary Anna King has a complicated family: she is the second of seven siblings – all girls except for her older brother – whose father was unwilling and mother unable to raise them. The four youngest children were given up for adoption at birth, and the three oldest shunted around among family members in varying combinations; the author and her sister were adopted by their grandfather and his wife when she was 10. As they grew up, the sisters adopted at birth began to get in touch, until finally King met them all. This is fertile ground for a memoir. And I think King is talented enough to produce an excellent memoir if the focus is right, but not so talented that she can write about anything and keep readers interested. The first third of the book is all about her early childhood, up to the age of 7. Aside from the question of how much of this she could really remember – she admits that a “memory” from age one is probably fabricated, but then proceeds to describe in detail events and her thoughts and opinions about them from age 2.5 – the material here just isn’t interesting enough to merit such length. The family is poor, the father is in and out, the mother has several pregnancies and adopts out the babies. There is nothing strikingly fresh or insightful in the author’s account. The bookjacket attempts to spice up this portion of the story by claiming the author was “raised in a commune of single mothers,” which she wasn’t. For a couple of years the mom and two oldest kids live in an apartment complex that happens to be full of single moms and their kids. That’s all. But by spending more than half of the book on her childhood, King leaves precious little space for the things I wanted most to read about: the younger sisters’ lives, how they balanced their biological and adoptive families, and how everyone involved related to each other as adults. We do hear a little about the childhood and adopted family of one of the sisters adopted at birth; I wanted this and more for all of them. I wanted to know how their mother felt about watching her two youngest daughters grow up from a distance, without their knowing who she was. I wanted to know how the author really felt about her biological father. He disappears from the story after she goes to live with her grandparents at age 7, then calls her college dorm room expecting her to immediately resume the role of daughter and angry at her alleged bitterness over his never calling or sending presents. She denies this, but is no more candid with the reader than in her guarded email ending her relationship with him; it feels like she is still protecting herself a decade later in case he reads the book. Then she includes a detailed description of being molested by another child at the age of 5, and never says another word about it, unless you count mentions of not liking to be touched. When did she finally tell someone? With this and her family history, what were her romantic relationships like? She mentions a college boyfriend, describes him briefly and in positive terms, and has nothing else to say on the subject. Of course, what I wanted from the book adds up to an incredible amount of vulnerability from the author and her family, which no reader has the right to demand. But if you are going to write a memoir on a very personal subject, I think you need to go all in on that subject; if you aren’t ready to do that, perhaps the memoir should wait. And this is in addition to the fact that one of most interesting parts of the story – how the relationships between all these long-lost siblings develop and how their history affects their adult lives – has only begun when the book ends. The author meets her youngest sister in the final chapter. Theoretically she could write a sequel one day, but unless you write like Maya Angelou you generally get one shot at a memoir, and Mary Anna King is no Maya Angelou. Alternatively, if writing a very personal memoir was off the table, the author might have gone the intellectual route, reading up on adoption-related research to share with the reader. She raises the concern that her sisters adopted at birth haven’t necessarily gotten a better deal: they too have imperfect families, they wind up in a similar place educationally to the older three siblings, and they seem to spiral downward after meeting their biological family (or in one case, before). If the author can’t give us the details of her sisters’ lives, she could have gone broad, looking at outcomes for other adopted kids to discover how common this is. But there’s no research here either. All that said, I read this book quickly, found it readable and basically enjoyed it. The author does a perfectly fine job with those parts of her adult life she does describe, some of which are quite personal. And of course, my reaction can’t predict those of readers for whom adoption is personal. Nevertheless, this is not a great memoir and it may preclude the author from writing a better one someday. Final two comments: the title doesn't seem quite apropos when the parents were married, and there are unfortunately no pictures.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Interesting memoir about growing up amongst a very dysfunctional family. The author's birth parents were in and out of her life and many of her siblings were given to different families for adoption. Eventually she manages to meet all of her lost siblings and they find the share a bond they didn't know they had. I found the story interesting and the ending uplifting. I received this book as part of a good reads giveaway.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    Well written memoir by a woman who survived a difficult childhood which included, among other things, seeing her baby sisters given up for adoption. King describes her family in a detailed unapologetic style; the story itself is sad but intriguing. This was a quick read. One of the best memoirs I've read in a while.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    I finished the book a week and a half ago and it has been lingering with me ever since. This is not your typical run of the mill memoir about a dysfunctional family, childhood abuse or addiction and the family in which Mary Anna King grew up seems unreal. This book is about parents who are poor, irresponsible and unwilling to practice safe sex, who instead decide to give each of their 7 kids away to family members (grandparents) or strangers because they can't afford to raise them. Mary's birth I finished the book a week and a half ago and it has been lingering with me ever since. This is not your typical run of the mill memoir about a dysfunctional family, childhood abuse or addiction and the family in which Mary Anna King grew up seems unreal. This book is about parents who are poor, irresponsible and unwilling to practice safe sex, who instead decide to give each of their 7 kids away to family members (grandparents) or strangers because they can't afford to raise them. Mary's birth parents' lack of insight into how their actions could have impacted all of their children's behavior, demeanor and lives, is outright astounding, despicable and egregious. They show no remorse for their actions, nor do they take any responsibility for it. It left me feeling sucker punched. I can't imagine being one of their children. While ultimately being raised by grandparents/adoptive parents gave Mary Anna King and her sister access to opportunities they would not have had otherwise, the dysfunction within that family unit still existed and permeated through their entire lives. The book starts off slow and the familial/adoptive relationships are a little hard to follow at first (until you get farther into the book (hence the 4 star rating)) but Mary draws you in to the "story" as do her siblings. The way in which each child learns to cope and ultimately how different their personalities are, is fascinating given the circumstances. This memoir was compared to Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club" - I read a few reviews that said if you've read that book, reading this was unnecessary. The subject matters of both memoirs is completely different and Bastards is actually well written, which is more than I can say for The Liars Club. Mary Anna King posed several questions which have stayed with me for weeks, specifically: "Is it possible to forgive someone when they never asked for it? Or does unrequested absolution become a self-inflicted wound?" For me, the answer is yes, but first you must forgive yourself. :-)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    Thoughtful, painful. King's portraits are complex—her grandfather and Mimi, for example, aren't portrayed solely as people who took her in only because she needed somewhere to go; they're also people who did their best by her. King lets herself walk around in people's shoes, trying to figure out not just what her experience was but why they might have acted and reacted as they did. King had siblings, a brother and multiple sisters, but she didn't grow up with them. Or—she grew up with her brother Thoughtful, painful. King's portraits are complex—her grandfather and Mimi, for example, aren't portrayed solely as people who took her in only because she needed somewhere to go; they're also people who did their best by her. King lets herself walk around in people's shoes, trying to figure out not just what her experience was but why they might have acted and reacted as they did. King had siblings, a brother and multiple sisters, but she didn't grow up with them. Or—she grew up with her brother for a while. She grew up with one of her sisters for a while. The others disappeared into a void that was adoption, and it wasn't until King was effectively an adult that she had a chance to see them, to meet them, again. This was the best-case scenario, she says after one such meeting, the best it could have gone. An instant connection, a day-long binge on genealogy, followed by a separation that tears a hole so deep in your skull that you'll want to have your friends' long-lost kids stick their fingers in it (173). Reuniting is, in many ways, all she's wanted since she was a childhood, but it, too, is a complex, messy process. King notes that, of herself and her sisters (all of whom were raised, in part or entirely, by non-biological parents), they all struggled to find their place in the world. Too many of their memories, maybe, have too much weight and too many questions. King sometimes holds herself at a distance from her story, but perhaps that helps her peel back the layers just a little bit more. Well worth the read. I received a free copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    This book is a memoir by one of seven children born to very flawed parents in a bad marriage. The parents kept having babies year after year, and kept giving them away. Eventually, all seven found one another and got to know about themselves biologically and emotionally. The author writes from her own viewpoint, obviously, and thoroughly analyzes her personal thoughts and feelings. This book leaves one feeling that there are many unanswered questions about the parents and the inconceivability of This book is a memoir by one of seven children born to very flawed parents in a bad marriage. The parents kept having babies year after year, and kept giving them away. Eventually, all seven found one another and got to know about themselves biologically and emotionally. The author writes from her own viewpoint, obviously, and thoroughly analyzes her personal thoughts and feelings. This book leaves one feeling that there are many unanswered questions about the parents and the inconceivability of them continuing to have so many babies and giving them all away. This is not a pleasant book to read. But it may be of interest to others who were given away/adopted out by their biological parents. I appreciated winning it, and am writing my opinion of it. In all honesty, I did not like the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Literary Mama

    For many adoptees and foster children, the what if, what if, what if of separation from our first families is a constant gnawing; for some it is a gaping, unstaunchable wound. Such absence and apartness is a difficult feeling to convey, but Mary Anna King pulls it to the page with Bastards, a book that is sure to be anthem-like for adoptee readers, should be required reading for adoptive parents, and is, beyond that, a vivid, absorbing story that is sure to sate fans of literary memoir. Read For many adoptees and foster children, the what if, what if, what if of separation from our first families is a constant gnawing; for some it is a gaping, unstaunchable wound. Such absence and apartness is a difficult feeling to convey, but Mary Anna King pulls it to the page with Bastards, a book that is sure to be anthem-like for adoptee readers, should be required reading for adoptive parents, and is, beyond that, a vivid, absorbing story that is sure to sate fans of literary memoir. Read Literary Mama's full review here: http://www.literarymama.com/reviews/a...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Denise Westlake

    "Denial is a crooked crutch. When it's all you have, you don't see how it bends away from you, the way it makes each step longer and more tedious. When you're deep in reliance on such a twisted thing, you adjust ylurself to accomodate it. You two coil together so tight that it becomes impossible to tell where you end and it begins.. ." (231) A brave story about Mary Anna King's life. It's her story. No criticisms from me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Georgine

    I won this book on Goodreads. It was an interesting read even though it was different from what I normally read. It was about the life of Mary. Some scenes made me remember my life growing up. I would recommend this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    you know those people who have intense life stories and write them all down during their creative writing class in college and turn it into a book? yep.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Jane

    Mary Anna King’s first six years of life are anything but stable. Three out of her five siblings are put up for adoption, and as a small child, Mary Anna tags along with her mother to meet with potential adoptive parents for each of her unborn sisters. Mary Anna explores the many reasons for her mom’s unwanted pregnancies, and though she’s never certain of any particular one, she is sure about one thing. She’s going to meet those sisters someday, no matter what. Bastards is not only Mary Anna's Mary Anna King’s first six years of life are anything but stable. Three out of her five siblings are put up for adoption, and as a small child, Mary Anna tags along with her mother to meet with potential adoptive parents for each of her unborn sisters. Mary Anna explores the many reasons for her mom’s unwanted pregnancies, and though she’s never certain of any particular one, she is sure about one thing. She’s going to meet those sisters someday, no matter what. Bastards is not only Mary Anna's journey of discovering who her adopted sisters are, but also discovering who she is and how family is defined when it's scattered to pieces. When Mary Anna is six, her step-grandma, Mimi, shows up at her New Jersey home and whisks the remaining three children away to live in Oklahoma with her and grandpa. Mary Anna’s unreliable father has walked out for the last time. This time Mary Anna’s mom is so broken she cannot take care of herself, let alone her three kids that managed to escape adoption. What starts as a temporary stay at her grandparent's home ends up as Mary Anna’s and her sister’s forever home. Sadly, her brother is shipped back to New Jersey due to behavioral issues, but he manages to stay in touch. Mary Anna’s life with her grandparents is stable, but she spends her childhood wondering if they opened their home out of love or obligation. Mary Anna is also unsure of who she should love, whether the recipient deserves her love, and how love is actually defined. I feel like I need a diagram to explain Mary Anna’s convoluted family tree, but that’s one of the reasons this book is so special. Mary Anna’s candid prose beautifully sets up the family tree, person by person, connecting everyone together with not only physical characteristics, but also mannerisms and personality traits. As each sister finds Mary Anna, the reunion is both joyous and heartbreaking. Finding one other is balanced equally with many lost years that can never be relived. Mary Anna deftly captures this and expertly describes how her family comes alive, piece by piece, in the faces of strangers. Mary Anna oscillates between matter-of-fact acceptance and the anguish of a child who is the very definition of the word, bastard. Her radical shifts between acceptance and uncertainty give the memories of her unique childhood a sense of sincerity and vulnerability and proves that what she went through was enough confusion and trauma to last a lifetime. I’m glad she didn’t feel the need to finish the memoir with a happily-ever-after feel. It's completely believable that she will spend the rest of her life getting to know her sisters and forever questioning her parent's strange behavior. Because this book was so beautifully written and compelling I read every single word, including the acknowledgements. And it was there, in the acknowledgements, that I found the most beautiful line, “To my editor . . . You made it possible for there to be a place in this world where my siblings and I can be together, in some small way, forever.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    In Bastards: A Memoir, Mary Anna King fearlessly tells the story of growing up in a family in which pieces are chipped away slowly, and of gradually reunifying those pieces over time. Mary builds complex portraits of the people involved in her childhood, not shying away from painful truths as she starts life in poverty in New Jersey, born to parents who were “good at having (kids), just not good at keeping them.” There were seven children in all, and four of her baby sisters are each In Bastards: A Memoir, Mary Anna King fearlessly tells the story of growing up in a family in which pieces are chipped away slowly, and of gradually reunifying those pieces over time. Mary builds complex portraits of the people involved in her childhood, not shying away from painful truths as she starts life in poverty in New Jersey, born to parents who were “good at having (kids), just not good at keeping them.” There were seven children in all, and four of her baby sisters are each relinquished for adoption at birth. Mary vividly remembers tagging along with her mother to meet the prospective adoptive parents at coffee shops. Mary is then sent, along with her brother and sister, to Oklahoma to live with her grandfather and step-grandmother and experiences yet another loss as her brother is sent away while she and her sister experience a kinship adoption. Mary grows up feeling indebted to her adoptive parents, and tries to be exactly what she thinks everyone wants her to be. Mary knows deep inside that her sisters will come back to find her one day, and she decides she must make herself someone worthy of finding. This memoir is heartbreaking, wise and told with remarkable storytelling skills, which make the book easy to read and hard to put down. Its honesty, bravery and hopeful portrayal of the all-enduring nature of the human spirit make the book reminiscent of The Glass Castle. As Mary begins to be found by her sisters, she realizes that being found is not a “finish line”, but the beginning of a marathon. She aptly describes being in-reunion and the crash that occurs after reunion. As Mary meets her sisters and their adoptive families, Mary is confounded by the factors that she now must face: “I had always told myself that adoption was a kind of triple-win scenario – birth families relieve the pressure of a child they are unable to care for, adoptive families gain a much wanted child, child gains a stable, loving family – but I was beginning to see that there was a flipside. There can be no winners without losers. So in a triple-win, there must be a triple-loss. Once adoption was on the table, everyone has already lost – lineage, origin, the vision of the future lives they thought they would live – and all losses were attached to someone else’s gain in an endless, confusing loop.” Mary’s impressive descriptions of the complexities of loss, adoption, reunion, family and love make this memoir insightful, thoughtful and beautiful. Her wit and humor make this dark story a surprisingly enjoyable read

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This was an interesting memoir, but not interesting enough. I've read memoirs before that were much more engaging than this one. Of course I always read memoirs where the author describes the things they remember happening at the age of 3 and think...really? You remember what you said/thought/did at age 3? Also, King mentions that one character is actually a composite of more than one person, and now I'm wondering which character...I wish she had said. I felt like the writing in this book was a This was an interesting memoir, but not interesting enough. I've read memoirs before that were much more engaging than this one. Of course I always read memoirs where the author describes the things they remember happening at the age of 3 and think...really? You remember what you said/thought/did at age 3? Also, King mentions that one character is actually a composite of more than one person, and now I'm wondering which character...I wish she had said. I felt like the writing in this book was a little overdone. Any I didn't like that there was so much alcohol involved in the reunions which King's "phantom" sisters. I mean the birth mom is drinking with the 19 year old? Nope that doesn't sit right with me. The story started off strong with some great details from the author's youth. I found that I just didn't care that much what happened at the end. Also, I misread the description and thought the mom was living in a commune when she gave up baby after baby. I wish the author had interviewed her birth mom to find out why she kept having child after child...it appears she's still alive, so it doesn't make sense that she didn't ask her. Also, the timeline made me feel unanchored as I read. I had trouble relating to the ages of the characters in relation to my age in a given year, as well as not liking that the story seemed to speed up so much during the last 1/3 of the book. Also, I just thought the author kept mentioning things about her life but never following up. Like her fear of relationships...then suddenly she has a boyfriend in college. So, did she just get over it? Stuff like that kept happening, I wish she had wrapped things up better.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    http://wordnerdy.blogspot.com/2015/06... King has been making the rounds of blogs I like to promote this memoir (cf this piece on The Toast), and though I don't read a lot of non-fiction, her writing and the description of this book were both pretty intriguing. King grew up in a poor and complicated family, where she was the second oldest of seven (the younger ones also all girls), and where her four youngest sisters were all given up for adoption, not knowing the older siblings existed. But King http://wordnerdy.blogspot.com/2015/06... King has been making the rounds of blogs I like to promote this memoir (cf this piece on The Toast), and though I don't read a lot of non-fiction, her writing and the description of this book were both pretty intriguing. King grew up in a poor and complicated family, where she was the second oldest of seven (the younger ones also all girls), and where her four youngest sisters were all given up for adoption, not knowing the older siblings existed. But King knew they would come looking eventually, and wanted to be ready for them. The writing here is just excellent--the story moves along really quickly, and I loved King's descriptions of the various reunions, even if a lot of questions go unanswered. But it's almost like everything else besides the siblings is extraneous--this works fine just as it is. Really tender and also, at times, really funny. A/A-.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nancy H

    What a rough emotional life this author has led! This is her amazing story of how her parents kept having babies and giving them away, and how she constantly felt that large pieces of her were missing. Unfortunately, this feeling of not belonging and of being out of place in life is all too common in many children and teens today. Throughout my teaching career, I encountered quite a few teens who had similar stories to Mary's, and who I just wanted to take home with me and love! The instinct for What a rough emotional life this author has led! This is her amazing story of how her parents kept having babies and giving them away, and how she constantly felt that large pieces of her were missing. Unfortunately, this feeling of not belonging and of being out of place in life is all too common in many children and teens today. Throughout my teaching career, I encountered quite a few teens who had similar stories to Mary's, and who I just wanted to take home with me and love! The instinct for survival that makes these kids tough is amazingly strong and they become resilient for the most part, although many go through rough times because they don't have the emotional background and family support to see them through life. Mary's story should open our eyes to what many children are living with every day in this country as well as around the world.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hanson

    This book has the type of parents that frustrate me. King does a good job of providing a warts and all description of what it can be like to grow up with a highly dysfunctional family. I was extremely frustrated with her mother. Birth control was designed for situations like this. Her inability to plan for the amount of children she wound up having led to causing her children a lot of pain. This book shows some of the struggles that adopted children face (even under healthy circumstances) and This book has the type of parents that frustrate me. King does a good job of providing a warts and all description of what it can be like to grow up with a highly dysfunctional family. I was extremely frustrated with her mother. Birth control was designed for situations like this. Her inability to plan for the amount of children she wound up having led to causing her children a lot of pain. This book shows some of the struggles that adopted children face (even under healthy circumstances) and how reconnecting with lost family members can be a complex process that isn't entirely happy. This book definitely had some slow sections and was wrapped up a bit quickly, but overall it was an interesting glimpse at King's sometimes challenging life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    As small children, Mary Anna King and her brother watched her mother give her next four newborns up for adoption. Mary's memoir talks about her life growing up with her mother in New Jersey and then with her grandparents in Oklahoma. As she ages, Mary comes to several realizations about herself and her family. This memoir was interesting in some parts and kind of dull and lost in others. I never felt I had a great sense of who Mary really was. That may be because she herself didn't know but some As small children, Mary Anna King and her brother watched her mother give her next four newborns up for adoption. Mary's memoir talks about her life growing up with her mother in New Jersey and then with her grandparents in Oklahoma. As she ages, Mary comes to several realizations about herself and her family. This memoir was interesting in some parts and kind of dull and lost in others. I never felt I had a great sense of who Mary really was. That may be because she herself didn't know but some of the details in the book that may have helped bring the memoir to life seemed to have been glossed over. The memoir has a heavy, sad feeling to it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I finally was able to put this book down, but only because I finished it. Bastards tells the story of Mary Anna King's family, one where sisters are given away on a regular basis and adults are unreliable at best, crazy or drunken at worst. King's strong voice carries you through the stories she hoarded so that when she finally gathered her sisters together again, she could tell them the tales of the life that had occurred in their absence. If you enjoyed The Glass Castle, you'll like this as I finally was able to put this book down, but only because I finished it. Bastards tells the story of Mary Anna King's family, one where sisters are given away on a regular basis and adults are unreliable at best, crazy or drunken at worst. King's strong voice carries you through the stories she hoarded so that when she finally gathered her sisters together again, she could tell them the tales of the life that had occurred in their absence. If you enjoyed The Glass Castle, you'll like this as well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danna

    "I had been excited to distraction about getting on an airplane because I was certain that once I was above the cloud cover I would see where the Care Bears lived. If I could get their attention, if they saw my brother, sister, and me in transit like this, the Care Bears would scoop us up, bellies blazing with rainbow light, and fix our fractured family. Or maybe the Care Bears would let us live with them in the clouds where there weren't any grown-ups to muck up our lives. That might be the "I had been excited to distraction about getting on an airplane because I was certain that once I was above the cloud cover I would see where the Care Bears lived. If I could get their attention, if they saw my brother, sister, and me in transit like this, the Care Bears would scoop us up, bellies blazing with rainbow light, and fix our fractured family. Or maybe the Care Bears would let us live with them in the clouds where there weren't any grown-ups to muck up our lives. That might be the best of everything."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A comment on the dust jacket says this book is hilarious, an adjective I would not use. Mary Anna King describes an impossibly sad scenario, but one that will leave you feeling altogether better about the strength of human spirit. She writes with an engaging style that sometimes is lacking in memoirs. Her story is both tragic and inspiring. Taking the time out of my busy life to read about hers felt like a good way to respect her journey.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, this coming of age memoir takes a close look at a not-even-close-to-perfect life. Adopted by grandparents and with sisters long given up to others, the author's life is a modern family under tough circumstances. Interesting to keep you reading, but it still feels lacking in action and memorable stories sometimes. a good read I'd you like this type of memoir, but if not, you won't be missing much.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I absolutely loved this book. Bastards tells the story of seven siblings, all adopted, though not together and the authors journey leading up to and following her reunion with her lost siblings. This book reminds us just how important both biological and non-biological family is; both have separate, yet, important rolls.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christine Grant

    I thought this book would be more interesting than it is--after all, it's about a girl whose mother had seven children, ended up giving away four of them, and lost the rest to family members when she couldn't get her life together. I don't know exactly what the problem is, but over 100 pages in and I still don't care that much. Moving on.

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