Superior Reads


Jo Baker, bestselling novelist of Longbourn, is out with a breathtaking tale about a young woman haunted by grief and suspicion during the London Blitz – The Midnight News. Twenty-year-old Charlotte Richmond takes a room in the city and a job as a typist at the Ministry of Information to escape her controlling father.  As sirens go off and bombs fall across the city, Charlotte grabs her gas mask and other essentials and heads to the basement kitchen to wait out the raid with her landlord, Mrs. Callaghan, while another tenant, Mr. Gibbons heads to the post to prepare to search for bodies amidst the rubble.

It’s a lonely existence, her friends are distracted by families and husbands and air raids, and her best friend, Elena, has recently been avoiding her. After the deaths of several friends, darkness envelopes her. As Charlotte walks the cratered city blocks of London on her way to work, she feels anxious. Someone is following her; she is sure of it. A menacing, dark figure looms around corners and in alleys. Is it her imagination or has she unwittingly become a target for someone or something? Is she somehow connected to the deaths? As the deaths stack up, Charlotte wonders whether she is losing her mind – the bodies, the constant fear of death, and the mysterious man all threaten her tenuous hold on sanity.

The only bright spot in Charlotte’s existence is meeting a young man who sits on a park bench feeding the birds. She feels drawn to him. Tom, too, seems to be merely existing. He has been accepted at University, but because of the bombings, classes have been cancelled. In the meantime, he helps his father at the mortuary . . . and feeds the birds.

The Midnight News is unlike any other World War II era novel I’ve read. Part love story and part mystery, I found Jo Baker’s plot intriguing, her characters engrossing, and the twist at the end of the novel masterful.  A riveting story about resiliency and survival.

I highly recommend The Midnight News for fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and The Lilac Girls. This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my interview with Jo Baker on May 25 at 7:00 pm and the 29th at 6:00 am on WTIP 90.7 Grand Marais, or stream it from the web at

As author Michael Finkel says, he is drawn to the stories of “misfits and scallywags”. In his most recent book, The Art Thief; A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession, he tells the story of Stephàne Breitwieser, the infamous art thief responsible for over 300 thefts of art across Europe valued at nearly 2 billion dollars.  Breitwieser preferred small, regional museums and cathedrals – places where both foot traffic and security were thin. His girlfriend served as his lookout. He was outrageously successful largely because, unlike most art thieves, he wasn’t interested in selling the art he stole. He was an aesthete, often moved to tears by the beauty of a piece and wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by his acquired treasures. He stored and displayed his booty in two rooms upstairs in his mother’s house, where he lived with his girlfriend. Like many addicts, his appetite only grew with each successful caper – his delusions of grandeur and invincibility leading him to take greater chances – ultimately, resulting in his capture and arrest – and implicating his girlfriend and his mother in his crimes.

In True Story, Finkel wrote about Christian Longo, a man who murdered his wife and three children in Oregon and then took an alternative identity in Mexico – the identity of none other than journalist Michael Finkel, New York Times reporter. When Finkel discovered that a murderer had been using his identity as an alias and was in prison, he wrote to him and asked for an interview. Those interviews became the basis for his book, which was made into a movie by Brad Pitt’s production company in 2015, starring Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones.

In The Stranger in the Woods, Finkel tells the story of Christopher Knight, a twenty-year-old man who disappeared into the Maine woods, living in a tent, and stealing food and supplies from unoccupied nearby cabins. Knight did not talk to another human being for twenty-seven years. After his capture and imprisonment, Finkel wrote to him and Knight agreed to a series of interviews that ultimately became the book, a book Knight considers his biography.

These stories, along with countless others that Finkel covered during his time as a journalist, add up to an astounding career – and reveal a remarkably gifted storyteller – who has an unassuming, unjudgmental approach to his subjects, patiently waiting for them to gain confidence in him as their scribe. Finkel has the gift of gab, whether in French as he interviewed Breitwieser, or in English as he spoke with Longo, or as in the case of Christopher Knight, a patient reporter comfortable with long periods of silence.

The Art Thief, A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession is a propulsive read, meticulously researched and compellingly told. I look forward to Finkel’s future books.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my interview with Michael Finkel on June 22 at 7:00 pm and the 24th at 6:00 am on WTIP Radio or stream it from the web at

It’s rare that an author invites us to enter the sacristy of her mind as unapologetically as Abigail Thomas. After two short story collections, one novel, and four works of nonfiction, including the memoirs Safekeeping: A Three Dog life; What Comes Next and How to Like It; and Thinking About Memoir, Thomas has primed us to embrace her unconventional, quirky, and irreverent lifestyle.

Thomas’s newest memoir, Still Life at Eighty; The Next Interesting Thing, is a fresh take on what it means to age in a society that embraces youth. For Abigail Thomas, eighty is letting go – not of life, but of all the expectations with which life burdens us. Throwing out her makeup, taking a nap in the middle of the day, and not feeling guilty about something or everything, Thomas has eighty down. Even during a pandemic. Even at her annual check up when her doctor asks her to count backward by sevens. Even when her beloved dog dies. And despite youthfulness that smacks her in the face – she’s relieved, she writes, when she sees a young woman on the street with her whole life in front of her – relieved because her first thought is thank God that isn’t me.

Thomas muses about small things. The pandemic has forced her indoors, away from people. She focuses on a one-winged wasp, the squirrels burying the carrots she threw out for them yesterday, she learns how to spatchcock a chicken and spatchcocks chicken three days in a row, never eating the chicken, but delights to learn the root of the term from her American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, where she also learns the root for death – she thinks it means to flow – but then she realizes she is looking at the wrong reference, dead is dead, she says.

On her eightieth birthday, Thomas gets a tattoo. For her sixtieth birthday, she had a salamander tattooed on her right arm, so this one will go on her left, just the initials FTS, because the salamander hurt too much. Because we’re on the radio, I’ll leave the interpretation up to your imagination. Just know, that it’s trademark Abigail Thomas – irreverent, outrageous, unexpected.  So not eighty.

This is a collection of flash memoir – some chapters are a mere paragraph, others three pages long; the threads of a life all woven together with Thomas’s wit and wisdom. You won’t find the secret of life buried here among the sentences and paragraphs, what you will find, however, will be transparency and authenticity – you’ll find a woman who has come to terms with being referred to as elderly  … because, frankly, Abigail Thomas’s eighty is nothing you’ve experienced before.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm on Superior Reads on WTIP, 90.7 Grand Marais, or on the web at

V.V. Ganeshananthan’s debut novel, LOVE MARRIAGE, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize and named as one of the best books of the year by THE WASHINGTON POST. Her sophomore novel, BROTHERLESS NIGHT was released this month and is most certainly going to be on my list of favorite books of 2023.

Set during the early years of Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war, and based on sixteen years of research, BROTHERLESS NIGHT is an unflinching look at the cost of war to civilians caught in the middle.

The book opens in 1981 in Jaffa; Sixteen-year-old Shashi wants to become a doctor but her plans are upended as a vicious civil war overtakes Sri Lanka. The political becomes personal as Sashi’s family and friends are split apart by warring loyalties. When two of her brothers and a childhood friend join the Tamil Tigers, whose violent ideology has dire consequences for her family and community, Sashi is recruited to work in their field hospital at night, while continuing her studies by day. After the Tigers murder one of her favorite teachers, and Indian “peacekeepers” enter the conflict, Sashi joins another professor and her husband to document human rights violations as a mode of civil disobedience. It is a dangerous endeavor that launches Sashi down a path from which she cannot return.

“The story is already unbearable, but now you must shift how you see. Widen your lens, stand farther away, and see who the Tigers have left out of the picture, see who profits from the deaths of the ordinary people,” Sashi tells us.

There are plenty of villains in BROTHERLESS NIGHT, but as all fiction writers understand, both villain and hero can co-exist in one being. Though the Tamil Tigers were born of discrimination and persecution, they wrought their own violent justice, and the Indian “peacekeepers” perpetrated rapes and massacres on civilians. But out of the rubble, as is so often the case in war, there is a faithful remnant of civilians, like Sashi and her professor, who risk their lives to document injustice and give voice to the voiceless.

BROTHERLESS NIGHTS is an engrossing and heartrending read, and Sashi is a heroine for the ages. Ganeshananthan writes brilliantly about a complex subject, casting a spotlight on the forgotten heroes and victims of war.

Listen to my interview with V.V. Ganeshananthan on Superior Reads on WTIP Radio 90.7 Grand Marais on February 23 at 7:00 pm and February 25 at 6:00 am, or stream it from the web at

I first became aware of author Rachael Hanel when I read her memoir, We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down, Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter. Her newest project, out this month from University of Minnesota Press is a biography of Camilla Hall – NOT THE CAMILLA WE KNEW, ONE WOMAN’S PATH FROM SMALL-TOWN AMERICA TO THE SYMBIONESE LIBERATION ARMY. It’s a shocking portrait of a pastor’s daughter from St. Peter, Minnesota, whose life took a radical turn when she joined the SLA, ultimately dying in a shootout with the Los Angeles Police in May 1974.

Hanel spent a decade researching Camilla’s life – reading letters written home to her parents, interviewing friends and family members, and consulting psychologists who gave her insight into Camilla’s radicalization. Born the second child of four to a Lutheran pastor and his wife, the family tragically lost three children to separate illnesses or disease, leaving Camilla an only child.

After serving as missionaries in Africa, the family, at this point with Camilla and one sister still living, moved back to Minnesota. Camilla attended college at Gustavus Adolphus and the University of Minnesota and started her professional life as a social worker in the Twin Cities and Duluth, before ultimately leaving for California to pursue life as an artist. There, she met her lover and the woman who introduced her to the mission of the SLA as it was just beginning.

When Camilla’s prospects of supporting herself with her art began to flag, she went to work for the park system as one of a small handful of women, eventually organizing with other women to force the system into more equitable hiring and compensation practices. But Camilla and the other women were hired as temporary workers and found that they had little bargaining power. When that job ended, Camilla, rootless and looking for a meaningful cause to put her energy toward, joined the SLA. When the SLA kidnapped Patricia Hearst, and robbed a bank, Camilla’s face appeared on wanted posters all over the US.

Hanel’s research is robust – and gives her enough information to speculate about Camilla’s motivation to become involved with the SLA. A compelling read about domestic terrorism and how individuals are radicalized.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on Superior Reads the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio 90.7 Grand Marais, or stream it from the web at

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver is perhaps one of her finest books – and most certainly one of my favorite books of 2022. Though it’s not an easy read – think abuse, neglect, orphans, a corrupt foster care system, and the Opiod Crisis – it is an important one.

In an interview, Barbara Kingsolver said that she wanted to call attention to the people in her community, in Appalachia – a flyover place associated with hillbillies, mining, despondency, and more recently, targets for the drug industry in the Opiod crisis. She wanted to put faces to the caricatures and real stories to the stereotypes that have provided fodder for the media. She has a worthy character in Demon Copperhead. He’s likable – a character who has all the best intentions to live the best life, but none of the opportunities. To say that Demon Copperhead is down-on-his luck is akin to saying that David Copperfield was having a bad day. And Kingsolver’s novel was inspired by that Dickens’ masterpiece. In fact, she notes that while touring Dickens’ home, she felt his encouragement to write the book – one that had been percolating in her head since the beginning of the Opiod crisis. And she began that day, penning the opening sentences while sitting at Dickens’ desk.

Born to a drug-addicted sixteen-year-old mother, Demon is cursed from birth – born onto the kitchen floor of his mother’s trailer with the amniotic sack still intact – he at least is assured by old wives tales, to not have to suffer the fate of drowning, as his father has before his birth. Small consolation for Demon, who experiences abuse at the hands of a stepfather, eventually being placed in a series of nightmarish foster homes that are in the system for either the money or free labor.

But Kingsolver likes her readers – and she wanted to end the book on a hopeful note. In a final transition to a dream foster home with the coach of the high school football team, Demon excels at football, until an injury and an incompetent doctor usher him into an addiction to Opiods. But the hope lies therein – what didn’t kill him, made him stronger.  By this point in the book, dear reader, we know that Demon is resilient, he’s Teflon, he’s going to suffer, and the people he loves are not all going to make it out alive, but Demon, Demon is going to be all right.

Demon Copperhead is a propulsive read – an unflagging and intense gaze into the heart of the people victimized by big Pharma and the Opiod Crisis. Kingsolver never disappoints.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio 90.7 Grand Marais, MN or stream them from the web at

J Ryan Stradal dishes up another heartwarming hit with SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE LAKESIDE SUPPER CLUB – a story of love, loss, and the blessing or curse of a family legacy.

Set in 1996 in Bear Jaw, Minnesota, Mariel and her husband Ned fall in love and marry. He is the family heir to a chain of diners called Jorby’s, and she has inherited her grandparents’ old-fashioned supper club. The Lakeside Supper Club is bleeding money and when Ned’s father decides to build a Jorby’s down the street, it might well be the nail in the coffin of both the restaurant and family harmony.

You  might think Stradal has a background in family counseling, the ease with which he peels back the layers of conflict in this tale. We learn the backstory of Florence, Mariel’s mother, who has suddenly returned to town after years of estrangement between mother and daughter. Florence has holed up at the local church and refuses to leave until Mariel picks her up. As both women dig in their heels, townspeople take sides – team Florence serves up hot dishes to console her, while team Mariel keeps plugging away serving up grandmother Betty’s famous lemonade brandy old fashioned alongside the prime rib specials to keep the restaurant afloat.

Stradal is at the height of his powers when he writes about the fragile bonds of family  — the expectations we place on one another, our resiliency after loss, and the Midwestern work ethic (stubbornness, possibly?) that makes it nearly impossible to walk away from a personal or professional challenge. Through heartbreaking losses, financial challenges, and generational conflicts, Mariel and Ned create their own family legacy.

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE LAKESIDE SUPPER CLUB will feel like home to Midwesterners – grab a stool at the bar and settle in for a warm and witty read.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. I recommend SATURDAY  NIGHT AT THE LAKESIDE SUPPER CLUB for fans of Lorna Landvik and Sarah Stonich. Listen to my interview with J Ryan on Superior Reads on April 27 at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio, Grand Marais, 90.7 or stream it from the web at

In A HUNDRED LIVES SINCE THEN, award-winning Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum has gathered a collection of her wise and witty observations on motherhood, marriage, mortality, and more.

In her essay “Jealous of the GPS”, she reminds us that there are two types of people who cannot take car trips together – a man and a woman who happen to be married to each other. After a day or two of thinly veiled disgust, (he’s so anal, she’s so lazy) they come to appreciate their differences – who knew that getting lost could lead to discovering new friends or a heart-stopping view, or how planning ahead could ensure that a hotel room awaits them at the end of a long day.

In “Summer Sounds” while annoyed by the garbage trucks rolling down her street at 5:30 am like military tanks, she initially leans toward the city’s noise ordinance. But one morning, she recognizes that the sounds of summer are fleeting in Minnesota. Not a native Minnesotan, she has come to love “the way you throw on shorts and flip-flops when the temperature climbs to 50 in April … the way you cause nightmarish traffic jams at garden stores in May … the milk-carton boat races, over-the-top fireworks on July 4th and free outdoor concerts.” She is a convert; too soon, we’ll be forced inside behind our closed doors.

Rosenblum’s collection of essays is a delightful way to end a day – with each essay encompassing a mere 2-3 pages, it’s the perfect nightcap to end a long day.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio.

As Karen Fine was growing up, she cherished her annual visits with her paternal grandparents in South Africa. Her grandfather was a general practitioner with a family practice who often made house calls. On one of those visits with her grandfather, he brought her to a game reserve. There, she saw elephants, giraffes, baboons, and zebras and she knew that she wanted to become a veterinarian when she grew up. THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR is a memoir about Fine’s life as a veterinarian, the animals she cared for over the years, and her own animals. She is a leading expert in the emerging field of veterinary narrative medicine, and before joining Central Animal Hospital in Massachusetts, she owned and operated her own house call practice for twenty-five years.

Like her grandfather, she learned early on that some of her patients benefited from house calls … anxious cats and dogs, pets that needed to be euthanized,  and the families who wished to be comfortably at home as they said their last goodbyes. The home setting allowed her to practice narrative medicine more successfully. She would have the owner sequester their pet in a safe spot while she met with them to discuss their pet’s health and history in their family. Oftentimes, in the veterinarian office, she was faced with a tight schedule of appointments back to back and didn’t have the time to devote to more casual conversations that often revealed greater keys to understanding and diagnosing her animal patients. What she initially considered a “fluff” class in veterinarian school, “The Human-Animal Bond” became her driving force as a practitioner. She took additional classes in holistic health care for animals and found that acupuncture was particularly helpful for some of her patients.

“The human-animal bond would guide every decision my clients made about my patients – and it could pierce my soul with its simplicity and strength.”

Fine shared her story about her beloved dog, Rana, who had cancer and had to be euthanized when the dog was only five years old. As the tumor in Rana’s mouth grew, she looked odd, but she still enjoyed eating and playing. When Rana’s quality of life declined, Fine and her husband made the difficult decision to euthanize her. What followed was a devastating period of grief. She found that writing an obituary for Rana helped her grieve. At the back of the book she shares rituals for grieving a lost pet, as well as resources for pet owners.

THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR grew out of a desire to help pet owners realize how common it is to experience a deep bond with their pet, and to explore how much we can learn from animals.

“ … we love creatures who will not outlive us. That’s why we put our hearts on the line for them, why we avoid travel to be with them, why we spend our savings to keep them healthy, why we deal with all the messes and all the hassle. Because doing so teaches us about being human. Loving animals teaches us about being alive.”

Brimful of touching, joyful, heartbreaking, and life affirming tales, THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR is a must-read for animal lovers and pet owners.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio, 90.7 Grand Marais, MN.

ON THE SAVAGE SIDE is a new novel by Tiffany McDaniel, author of BETTY. Based on the unsolved murders of six women in Chillicothe, Ohio in 2015, the novel centers around the lives of twins Arcade (Arc) and Daffodil (Daffy). The book opens when the girls are just six years old. When their heroin addicted parents are unable to properly care for them, their grandmother Mamaw Milkweed steps in. Their mother Adelyn briefly becomes sober and convinces Mamaw to return the girls to her care, but Adelyn is doomed to fail soon thereafter. The twins father dies of an overdose and the girls remain in the care of their mother and aunt, heroin addicts and sex workers. When Mamaw is hit by a car and dies, the twins are left with no options. The neglect is severe – on their birthdays they draw pictures of a cake and pretend to eat it; they are raped by one of their mother’s johns, their mother too drug addled to stop him and their aunt too afraid.

This is a dark story, told from the perspective of Arc, and there are few moments of hope. The girls, though determined not to follow in their mother’s footsteps, are hamstrung by abuse and neglect. Though the girls show some success on the high school swim team and an academic interest in archeology (Arc, loves to dig for relics), with hopes of a college career, they fall into the same abyss as their mother and aunt. The only saving grace is their group of friends –  other addicts and sex workers – who form a tight bond. But as women start showing up in the river, they worry about which of them will be next.

McDaniel has crafted a narrative that weaves back and forth through time. No matter how determined, the girls are left to wrestle with the demons of their past, hobbled by generational curses over which they have no control. Sadly, this is a story about how and who determines the value of a life. When sex workers and addicts are the victims, the police have little interest in finding the killer. The real-life crime remains unsolved.

McDaniel’s strength lies in her lyrical prose and character development. I cared for the twins and their ragtag family of friends, but I also despaired for their future, and raged at a world where the women were not considered victims, but somehow implicated in their own demise. Women in abusive relationships are often told they deserve to be mistreated and women who use drugs and prostitute themselves to make a living are told they are asking for it. ON THE SAVAGE SIDE is a testimony to missing women everywhere. Bravo to McDaniel for lifting up these silenced voices.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews and my reviews on Superior Reads on WTIP Radio, 90.7 Grand Marais, Minnesota and on the web at

In The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives, David Mura lays bare the historical and fictional narratives that white America tells itself to justify and maintain white supremacy. Beginning with the birth of the nation and spanning the murders of black men and women by police officers, Mura weaves together history, literature, and his own personal experiences to show the ugly underbelly of America … where myth replaced true history and whites propagated false narratives.

Some whites, including some of our elected officials, are so invested in this false narrative that they try to influence what can and cannot be taught in our schools. As an example, he cites Arkansas Tom Cotton responding to curriculum based on the 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, and legislation he introduced prohibiting federal funds from being made available to teach the curriculum in elementary and secondary schools.

We often associate racism with conservative views – idolizing Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee, for example, and Sarah Palin’s view that “our founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery” – when in fact they were slave holders themselves. Mura points out that liberals are guilty as well – many have difficulty recognizing the racism of Abraham Lincoln through their myopic view of the slave-emancipating Lincoln.

“When a society (but for a few dissident members) decides that it does not feel troubled, how can healing even begin?” Mura asks.

Mura also examines racism through the lens of literature, which is one of the ways that racist views are propagated. As both a writer and a critic, his examples are thoughtful and convincing. He references White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination, by Jess Row who contends that white agency and privilege lead to the deracination of history and literature. White novelists Marilynne Robinson and Don DeLillo, and memoirist Annie Dillard, omit historical elements that involve race and ethnicity, sidestepping those narratives for ones that are more comfortable, he says. Not including BIPOC narratives is a “fantasy of deracination” and eliminates BIPOC individuals from the national narrative. Instead of writing white, authors of all colors should include the diversity of our actual existence, rather than remaining comfortable with their distorted world. Mura contrasts white writers against writers of color who, in order to succeed, must “always be aware of white people, their presence and power, however much these people of color might wish otherwise”.

The central theme of all the essays in The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself, is that white America has until recently been the only voice representing our past – in literature, in education, and in politics. Because of that, BIPOC stories have remained nonexistent for many white Americans, who continue to propagate false narratives to maintain a flattering portrait of themselves.

Mura ends his book with two essays one on the murder of George Floyd and the other on the murder of Daunte Wright by white police officers, as well as an appendix entitled, “A Brief Guide to Structural Racism.” Why does the murder of Black men (and women) by police keep happening? No amount of remorse will change that – only a concerted effort by white people to dissolve the myths and false narratives of their creation and fully acknowledge the stories and experiences of our BIPOC citizens.

The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and our American Narratives by David Mura should be required reading in all high school and college classrooms – and for all Americans. Mura presents a cohesive, comprehensive, and uncompromising look into how white stories about race erase our true historical narrative and foster racism in the present.

Shannon Gibney is an award-winning author of books of all kinds — from novels to anthologies to essays to picture books. She writes for adults, children, and everyone in-between. The through-line in all her work is stories that may have previously gone untold. What God Is Honored Here: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color, an anthology published by the University of Minnesota Press, exemplifies this approach, as does Gibney’s most recent novel, Dream Country, which was published by Dutton in 2018. Her newest book, released by Dutton this month, is billed as a speculative memoir, the provocative title is THE GIRL I AM, WAS, AND NEVER WILL BE, A SPECULATIVE MEMOIR OF TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION.

Gibney writes that the only way for an adoptee to tell her story, is to embrace that there are no singular truths. There are, she says, no stories without holes. For Gibney, there were many holes. Adopted by a white family at birth, Gibney’s birth mother was Irish-American and she’d had a brief and tumultuous relationship with her African American birth father. As a mixed-Black transracial adoptee, Gibney decided that the best vehicle to tell her story was with two different timelines bridged by a mysterious portal. In one timeline, she is Erin Powers, the name her birth mother gave her. In another, she is Shannon Gibney, a transracial adoptee in search of information about her birth parents and her identity. The portal between these two lives is where Gibney meets her birth father, who passed away before she could meet him, when she was six years old.

The memoir is interspersed with letters, documents, photographs, medical records, and interviews. The facts of these are juxtaposed against a time-traveling Erin/Shannon who meets her father in the portal, if every so briefly. It is a longing made more real through facts provided by family members and her own ingenious imagination.         

Along the way, Gibney reads books, listens to podcasts, watches films, and discovers websites and organizations that support adoptees and she shares these in a list of resources at the end of the book.

Transracial adoption is never tidy, and cannot be encapsulated in an individual story, but Gibney does a masterful job of helping the reader understand the complexities of identity and the machinations of the adoption industrial complex. A writer with courage and heart, Gibney lays bare her experience for the benefit of us all.

Listen to my interview with Shannon Gibney on January 26 at 7:00 pm and January 28 at 6:00 am on WTIP Radio 90.7 Grand Marais, or stream it from the web at

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