Friday, August 2, 2013

The Lost Daughter by Mary Williams

This is a memoir by a middle aged woman from a troubled family in Oakland who, as a teenager, was taken in by Jane Fonda and her family.  The story was interesting, and Jane Fonda and Ted Turner came off looking surprisingly down to earth, but the problem was, hard as I tried, I couldn't like Williams.  I know she had a terrible start in life - she was born into a broken, abusive, neglectful, dirt poor family.  Her father was in prison for Black Panther activities, her mother tried hard to keep things afloat working as a welder but after a knee injury loses her job and turns to alcohol to numb the pain.  One older sister is a crack addicted prostitute, another is a teenage mother who disappears just as Mary is starting to bond with the child.  She also discovers her father has more than the 5 children with her mother - but a string of them with other women - many of the boys bearing the same name.
As a teenager she gets sent to a summer camp run by Jane Fonda and her  then husband.  She bonds with the other, richer, campers, the staff and Fonda herself.  But at summer's end she must return to Oakland.  Until one year, she is brutally attacked and only admits to what happens to her counsellor and Fonda when she returns to camp.  There Fonda agrees to take her in if she first returns home and improves her grades and tells her family.  She does tell her family - an uncle is sympathetic, her mother barely listens - and they let her go live with Fonda.
We then hear of her life in LA, her college years, her wanderlust as she cannot stick to any job, relationship or plan.  Eventually she reconnects with her birth family and it looks like things may improve but given her track record it was hard to be sure.
I sympathize with Mary, and her story is fascinating, I'm just not sure I really like her.

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