Book Review: Blood Strangers

The cover of Blood StrangersBy Laura McSpadden

Blood Strangers by Katherine A. Briccetti; Memoir. Paperback: 302 pages; Heyday Books (2010) ISBN-10: 1597141305; ISBN-13: 978-1597141307

Blood Strangers does what I had previously thought impossible of a memoir. It tells a story that is simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming, profound and yet focused on the day-to-day realities of life, and grounded in the LGBT experience while remaining thoroughly accessible to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

In fact, Blood Strangers is so unguardedly real that I didn’t want to let it go: as soon as I finished the last page, I turned right back to the first page and started again.

In this memoir, Kathy Briccetti tells about the unfolding of her understanding of family with a tenderness that is palpable. Her family has a three-generations long context of adoption and absent fathers, which could all too easily have developed into a story replete with bitterness and drama. However, it is instead a tale of connection, reunion and discovery.

The story of Kathy’s life winds through Kentucky, New Jersey, Florida, Indiana and California. Throughout her life’s path, she experiences the love, rejection, and poignancy of her relationships with her father and her adoptive stepfather, the fears and triumphs of coming out during adulthood, and the simple joys of raising a family with her partner.

Any of these could have all too easily become the sole focus of this book: absent fathers and lesbian parents are hip, marketable topics that would have likely found a sizable audience on their own. But this book is richer than that, deeper than that.

The heart of this book is in the interplay between past and present. When Kathy discovers that her biological father was adopted, she begins a decade-long search for his mother and any other surviving blood relatives. This path of discovery takes her across state lines, into greater connection with her father, and even (gasp!) into the Family History Center of a Mormon Temple: but more than that, it brings her to a point of greater intimacy and peace with the present.

Briccetti’s writing style throughout exemplifies the perfect balance of simplicity and artistry. Her tone always fits exactly what each moment needs to bring it to life, whether it is the description of her commitment ceremony to her partner, the astute (and, at times, hilarious) comments of her sons, or the longed-for moments that never turn out quite the way we imagine.

This is a memoir that succeeds in finding the universal humanity within one person’s individual experiences. It is for anyone who has ever grappled with the nature of families and the complexities of human relationships.