A review of Hot, Shot and Bothered: A Novel by Nora McFarland.
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This Wheel’s On Fire
Blind in One Eye: A Story About Seeing the Possibilities by David R. Ford (FordWords Publishing; 218 pages; available as a Kindle and NOOKbook download)
David R. Ford’s memoir seemed to present an intriguing premise: Ford, an attorney in a white shoe practice in Washington, D.C. was adopted at birth. One day someone tells Ford that she spotted a person on a D.C.-area subway that looked enough like him to be his older brother – was it Ford’s older brother (by seven years) who was kept and raised by their birth parents? This reader assumed that the story of how Ford comes to meet the older brother he never knew, and would come to know him as a person, would make a worthwhile read. Sadly, there are too many faults in the telling to label it as commendable.
As I have mentioned, Ford is (actually, was) an attorney. This is something that Ford never lets the reader forget – he either feels that his readers are suffering from Alzheimer’s or he simply tells us this key point repeatedly in an effort to be patronizing… In fact, if I had placed a Post-It note on each of the pages on which Ford repeats this grand fact, I’d have been running to the store for more supplies: “I was a lawyer, trained to seek all of the facts and analyze them carefully… Most lawyers think they are good writers. Many are, at least in the technical sense; their nouns and verb tenses usually agree… I should have tried hard to get to him. I was a lawyer, a persuader. Now I couldn’t hope to understand my birth father.” (These are references on two pages, 169 and 183. You would not, trust me, want me to list them all.)
“I wanted to get into the conversation but wasn’t coming up with anything to say… I kept up an internal dialogue as we talked, critiquing my performance as embarrassingly stiff and clumsy.”
Ford apparently lacks an outgoing personality and he seems to want to tie this to his legal training. Sorry, but this is nonsense. There are plenty of gregarious, extroverted lawyers out there. Ford just seems to be an introvert who uses his legal background as an excuse for his lack of comfort in the presence of others.
The biggest flaw in this true tale is that when Ford does meet his brother, he finds someone who is older but not very interesting. His older brother likes to have a good time, especially fueled by alcohol, and cannot manage to stay married. The brothers have little in common, and Ford comes to realize that his being raised as an only child – a spoiled one – may have been a blessing.
Since there’s so little substance in the meetings between Ford and his older brother, the reader gets much unexpected information concerning Ford’s relationships with his sisters, who were also given up for adoption, as well as about the members of his birth family. But because so much territory is covered, and so many individuals must be discussed, this reader felt as if he did not get to know a single one of them very well. Ford’s birth mother and father were alcoholics, and serial giving-uppers of their own children, and it seems like the less known of them the better.
This memoir ends up being a morality play without a lesson, except that perhaps life is either confusing or simply what it is. A far better account of an adoptee’s experience in making a journey into her past is found in Lucky Girl: A Memoir by Mei-Ling Hopgood. As I wrote earlier about Hopgood, she is “a likeable narrator without an excess of ego… we can identify with her.” If Hopgood happened to be a lawyer, it’s something that goes unrevealed in her personal – highly troubling yet satisfying – story.
A review copy was provided by the author. Lucky Girl: A Memoir by Mei-Ling Hopgood (Algonquin Books; $13.95; 272 pages) was reviewed on this site on June 28, 2009, and July 30, 2009.
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