Title: The Mistress’s Daughter
Author: A. M. Homes
Source: Library (audio book)
Rating: Liked it (3 out of 5)
When A. M. Homes was 31, her biological mother – who had given her up for adoption at birth and whom she knew barely anything about – contacted her. Homes had always known she was adopted and always felt out of place in her adoptive family. This was a chance to learn more about who she was and where she came from.
Through her birth mother she found out the name of and got in touch with her birth father, developing complicated relationships with both. Homes admits that as a child she would imagine her birth parents as being perfect (her adoptive parents were anything but); once she gets to know her birth parents she realises this is nowhere near the truth.
The truth is her mother was a teenager desperate to escape an unhappy home life who fell in love with her older, married, boss. He promised to leave his wife but never did and abandoned her once she got pregnant. Giving up her daughter impacted the mother’s entire life yet seemingly had no impact on her father.
How Homes feels about both “The Mother” and “The Father” as she calls them changes as she gets to know them – and know and understand herself. Her feelings towards her adoptive family also change as a result. This really is a journey of discovery as Homes deals with the shock of the initial contact, the lack of control over how this contact develops (it’s a bit like letting the Genie out of the bottle), and the hopes and fears the ongoing contact raises.
I found the journey fascinating; painful at times, joyful at others. It was also often funny. Although this was a memoir it was written in the same way Homes writes her fiction – humorous but with an edge. At times I laughed out loud at the absurdity of her birth parents behaviour, especially her meetings with her father. The narrator helped get the humour across. I have no idea what A. M. Homes sounds like but the voice fitted my image of her. A downside of this being an audiobook was that there were no chapters listed so I had no idea where I was in the book other than Part 1 or Part 2.
Part 1 focused on Homes’ relationship with her parents and I loved it. Part 2 takes place seven years after her last contact with them and sees Homes revisiting her wider family history. I liked rather than loved this part. At times, there were too many names to keep track of and this means it dragged a bit. It was also much drier. I would have been happier with just Part 1 to be honest. If I had though, those final questions about what it all meant to Homes wouldn’t have been answered. And they did feel like they needed to be answered – she could just have maybe done this a little quicker for my taste.