Blood Strangers
by Katherine A. Briccetti


Heydey Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-597-14130-7.
Reviewed by Judy Miller
Posted on 11/24/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Relationships

Some feel it is better to let the past lie while others are driven by the need to know as much about what happened and what triggered those chains of events. Kathy Briccetti is one of the latter, driven to know about the events within the generations of her family history, circumstances that created generations of fatherless families and adoption.

Briccetti's parents divorced when she was very young. She and her brother were separated from their father and adopted by their step-father. Briccetti's belief—that she, her brother and mother were abandoned by her father—was distorted by the hazy memories of a three-year-old child.

In Blood Strangers, Briccetti's shares her compelling and well-written narrative as she explores her personal history, as well as her father's. She bravely takes the reader through her search for identity. From a childhood rife with issues of abandonment and loss. From being an ostensibly heterosexual woman to a committed lesbian partnership. Briccetti says, "It's human nature to seek our wholeness when given only pieces; our perceptual systems are programmed to see and hear the gestalt, so I imagine our emotional systems are similarly encoded."

Briccetti opens Blood Strangers by reflecting upon her two sons, conceived via a stranger's sperm, and the fact that they may never know the man that fathered them. She gave birth to them and they have been adopted by her partner. The adoption of Briccetti's sons was the third adoption in the history of her family. The first was the closed adoption of her father, seemingly cloaked in secrecy because of so little available information. The second was her adoption by her step-father, upon her mother's marriage to him. Briccetti is concerned that the legacy of her family and the way it has influenced her, will affect her sons—a "lost opportunity for anything deeper than simple acquaintance," in a sense, continuing the cycle of "blood strangers."

Briccetti has little support as she searches court records for information about her father's adoption, makes phone calls, and asks questions of herself and others (she began her search when in her teens). Her mother, brother, and partner don't understand her drive to know, and her father is torn about the search because he has not delved into the spectrum of emotions about his adoption. Her search to find the missing pieces of her family history takes commitment, patience, perseverance, and decades of time.

Briccetti made many discoveries—some wonderful, a few sad, and others years too late. While she was able to bring lost family members together and provide many of the missing pieces in her family's puzzle, I wasn't convinced that Briccetti had finished her search.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Kathy Briccetti holds an MFA from the Stonecoast creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Wright Institute in Berkeley. She is looking for a publisher for her second book, a story about Asperger's Syndrome, while she works on the third book, a novel that takes place in South Dakota in 1968. Visit her website.

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