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Almost Home: a memoir Paperback – July 5, 2017
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
“The prose is one of the book’s great strengths. The writing is clean, crisp, and will have readers turning pages.” - Publishers Weekly: The BookLife Prize
About the Author
Hilary Harper lives near Detroit, Michigan, where she writes essays and short fiction. She earned her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.
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Reading of this tragedy might have stopped me from wanting to know more. It's no surprise Hilary writes that she could only absorb so much of the truth. “The desire to know the whole story emerged slowly,” and it wasn’t until her twin sons asked about their grandfather that she began an earnest search for her father’s identity.
No one in her birth mother’s family knew him or knew his name. Some of the things they told Hilary were misleading: “He was a big Greek from Vegas, that’s all I know.” She found a copy of her original birth certificate, but the father’s name had been scratched out. She went through ten years of running down dead ends, including passing out flyers at a Sabre Pilots Association reunion in Las Vegas, based on a hunch. Can you imagine asking strangers “Were you at Nellis Air Force base in 1954? Did you fool around?”
Hilary’s drive to learn her identity is unquenchable, even though it understandably wavers. In fact, she had written the end of her memoir believing she would most likely never know who her father is.
Then, Part Two: DNA database and extraordinary kindnesses lead her to a (surprising) outcome. "Such an ordinary thing, to know one's own family," is not always ordinary, or simple, but for many of us, it's essential to our identity. As Hilary writes, it means looking in a mirror and not seeing a mystery.
I have always enjoyed searching my own genealogy and know how important it is for all of us to know "where we come from" as it forms part of our identity. I could easily imagine myself as 12 year old Hilary finding her baby book and starting her decades long quest for answers. The excerpts from family letters, and flashbacks to memories, kept the pages turning until I read the whole thing in almost one sitting.