Because Patrick McMahon and I participated in the same critique group several years ago, I had the good fortune of witnessing the latter stages of his book’s creation. When I read it now, I can still hear his voice as he read excerpts aloud to our group. At that time, my impression was that, while each sentence was well crafted, there was a tendency toward overwriting some of the scenes. But perhaps that was because the emotion in his voice added an extra dimension. It doesn’t feel overwritten to me now. Granted, as a narrator (or as the former self being portrayed), he does tend to obsess over just about everything. There’s a scene, for example, in which he invests a huge amount of energy into dialing a phone number when the other party isn’t even there to take the call. Our group leader complained about that, but Patrick’s reason for living in that mode is made clear: This is a story about feeling isolated or cut off from what is needed to feel grounded in life (primarily, knowledge of who one’s parents are), and about what it takes to overcome the real and imagined obstacles to bridging the divide.
I think the book may be getting the lion’s share of its support from other adoptees. It has been recommended as a roadmap for those still seeking out their origins. However, I think that (like my own memoir), it deserves to be taken as literature rather than simply as information for people focused on the subject matter. At least, it fascinates me despite my having no involvement with adoption.
Incidentally, this is the only memoir I can think of offhand that is written in present tense.
Stephen Gallup is the author of a memoir, What About the Boy: A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son. He has an eclectic interest in books and authors, and reviews books as part of his passion for the written word. He blogs at fatherspledge.com.