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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all itâ€TMs still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, a Memoir Paperback – May 5, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"What makes LIKE FAMILY so remarkable are not the peculiar circumstances of Paula McLain's childhood but the depth of understanding that she brings to those circumstances, and the beautiful prose in which she renders that understanding. Seldom have I seen so vividly evoked the need to belong to some, any, kind of family and the painful negotiations that time brings to even our closest intimacies." (Library Journal Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture 2003-01-00)

"Ms. McLain's close observation of the sisters' perils jumps with life and wry merriment. They take their pleasures and their sorrows as they arrive; even their times of desolation are narrated in language that conveys a kind of ragged glory-the tattered flag of their kinship still waves!" (Paula Fox, author of Borrowed Finery)

About the Author

After leaving California in 1987, Paula McLain spent the next decade in personal and professional vagabondage. She has worked in auto plants and hospitals and has been a cocktail waitress, a Christmas tree salesperson, a pizza maker, and an English teacher. In 1996, she received her MFA from the University of Michigan. Since then she has been in residence at Bread Loaf, Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony. At work on a novel, she lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (May 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316909092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316909099
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,815,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McLain writes a honest portrayal of her life as she grew up in the foster care system, but her book goes far beyond that one topic. It is also a book on coming of age, sisterly love and finding bits of joy in unlikely places. McClain is a master of fresh writing. On page after page, I highlighted lines and descriptions that were so beautifully written: They filled the furniture like rising dough, She was as quiet as a book on a lap,...emitted a postlaugh sigh that was a half leaking bicycle tire. I've been helping people write their life stories for fourteen years, (Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time) and I will certainly use this book as an example of how to tell a difficult story in a rich and vibrant way.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this book! This is real life, this isn't a soap opera. You're talking about a girl who spent most of her childhood being shuffled from one house to the next. Of course she is detached from the story, but it's a defense mechanism. Those readers don't understand the attachment issues foster kids have, especially the ones that age out of the system, may not be able to relate to the main character.

As a reader, I myself felt detached from the story. While I am usually very emotional when reading, I only cried once during the book. However, then I got to the end. I closed the book, and I cried. I cried realizing that she will never be able to just "get over" all the terrible things she went through. I cried knowing that she will never find closure because her past is still very much her present. I cried knowing that even if she ever asked her mom all those questions that were left unanswered, it wouldn't make a difference. There's no answer her mom could give her to make the scars go away. Nothing she could say that would make her childhood any less traumatic.

It's stories like this that have led my husband and I to start our lives as foster parents. No child should ever go through life feeling like they don't belong to anyone, or feeling unloved. Regardless if we have a child in our house for a month, a year, or forever, we will love them as our own. Giving a child that sense of peace and security when their whole world has been turned upside down can make all the difference. I only wish there were more foster parents out there who were doing it for the right reasons.
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Format: Paperback
In this memoir, the author just tells her story like it was, without a lot of deep thought, until the end.

This is one of those books where no part of it just drags on and on. She tells a story and then moves on to another.

It always breaks my heart to read about mothers who throw their children to the wolves, which is what this author's mother did. And her father, and other family members. As much as I almost hate to admit it, I was glad to see that Paula didn't just forgive her mother as easily as her sisters seemed to. Some people don't deserve that. Her mother is one of them.

I cried at the end (while at work!) reading the parts of the book where the author talks about not knowing when her Granny died, or being able to find her house. I even cried when she talked about her foster mother, who was mean to her, dying.

Overall, I really enjoyed writing this book. I rarely judge memoirs harshly because they contain the author's story to tell. No one else's.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What constitutes a family? Biological connections that are severed early on? Or the strangers who provide a kind of care for years, with no connection other than the physical proximity of living in the same house?

The author describes her journey through the foster care system in Fresno County in the 1970s and 1980s, and as she mentioned streets and places within the city and its surrounding areas, it all resonated with me. I had spent almost those same years as a social worker for Fresno County, and while I had not crossed paths with her or her sisters, Teresa and Penny, I could relate to much of what she wrote. However, my perspective came from the “other side” of the story. The side that represented the system, which I can readily acknowledge to be broken. Or at least severely damaged.

I had heard similar stories from the children in care, but in this author’s case, she kept most things secret. She did mention telling a neighbor some of her experiences, only to be dismissed.

As the years passed, there were good times for the sisters, and there were seemingly ordinary coming-of-age moments, but the lack of an emotional connection to a parent was keenly absent.

The sisters did share a strong bond with each other that lasted through their time in care…and afterwards, when they finally reconnected with their biological mother. But again, physical proximity seemed to be the main connection between the long absent mother and the sisters.

Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, a Memoir was an all too familiar tale to those of us who have worked in the system. Reading this story from a real life “graduate” of that system was inspirational. It is a testament to the author’s strength and resilience that she made it through to the other side, and can now share what she has learned along the way. 5 stars.
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