They’ve got a wall in China/ It’s a thousand miles long/ To keep out the foreigners/ They made it strong/ And I’ve got a wall around me/ That you can’t see… Paul Simon
I grew up with a cousin who was adopted. He learned this fact in his early teens. He became quite angry but also quickly managed to accept it. I know that he completely loved his adopted parents and a huge part of him died when they did.
Growing up I used to wonder how my cousin would have reacted if he had learned who his birth parents – who we knew were not from the U.S. – were, or if they had sought to contact him. This memoir, Lucky Girl, by Mei-Ling Hopgood provided the answers for me. In this intriguing true story, Mei-Ling is born to parents in China who quickly give her up for adoption to a family in the state of Michigan, U.S.A. After graduation from college, and during the first part of her career as a newspaper reporter, she discovers how to contact her birth parents and siblings. They make clear that they very much wish to see her also, and the first of what would turn out to be multiple reunions is set. Thus begins the new chapter in Mei-Ling’s life…
Mei-Ling must literally make a journey of thousands of miles to decipher the secrets of her birth family’s past, and to learn about the life she might have led. Initially there’s much happiness but then the family facades give way to human weaknesses, cruelties and non-explainable behaviors.
Once Mei-Ling takes this trip to a past she never knew she first accepts it and then – somewhat blissfully – lets it go.
Hopgood is a likeable narrator without an excess of ego; she freely expresses her foibles and failings. Because we can identify with her, we feel her fears, her nervousness in certain situations, her disappointments in others. She is, though, far from the most fluid or natural writer, and more than a few mixed tense sentences break the flow of thought. Yet she manages to tell a very engaging – and very human-scale – story of meeting, accepting and defeating the ghosts of her past. Because these are the ghosts that haunt every one of us, this is her personal story and our very own story.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. Reprinted courtesy of the Troy Bear blog. This is a “bonus” review.