Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Impostor's Daughter - Laurie Sandell

Title: The Impostor's Daughter
Author: Laurie Sandell
Published: 2009 Pages: 245
Genre: Memoir/Graphic Novel
Rating: 3/5

I read this book about five weeks ago, but I wasn't really sure how to review it. Then BBAW and Europe happened and it got put on the back burner. I even asked around on Twitter for some advice on how to review it and Bookfool was sweet enough to give me some starter questions. Last night, though, I flipped back through the book, quickly re-reading, and think I finally have a better handle on my feelings.

The Impostor's Daughter is mostly a memoir about Laurie Sandell's relationship with her father growing up. Her father was an amazing man with even more amazing stories to tell, and Laurie, the eldest child, was always the apple of his eye. That is until she grew to be older and began seeing some discrepancies in her father's stories. Laurie began to piece together some oddities in her father, including his taking out credit cards in her name and incurring debt, finding out her father did not have the degrees or military background he said he did, and other inconsistencies.

As Laurie grew into adulthood, she struggled to come to terms with her relationship with her father. In many ways she was lost herself and began experimenting with sex, aimless travel, ambien, and other destructive pastimes. As she landed a position in journalism, she began to use her father's stories as a backbone for a piece outing him as an impostor. But could she really out her father? And at what cost to her and her family?

My Rambly Thoughts:
Sorry for the long summary, but because this book is two-fold, it is hard to summarize quickly. And perhaps that's where my problems with this book stem from. On the one hand, this is a book about Sandell's relationship with her father and on the other about Sandell's finding her own self amongst all of the uncertainty. I personally believe that we are products of our environment, and so these two story-lines are in my opinion very related, but I'm not sure that Sandell makes the connection herself in the book. She's lost and can't settle on a relationship and begins taking pills and-and-and, but even through some of the things that happen in the end I don't think Sandell truly comes to terms with what her relationship with her father means to her and her well-being. Perhaps a closer second read would give me more insight into this, but the ending of the book left me feeling really unsettled as it just felt so unresolved.

I wish I had more to say about this book, but if you'll read through the reviews below they say many of the things I would say anyway. The sex--yuck. Couldn't relate to Sandell (actually, I could relate in many ways to her relationship with her father but not to the self-destructive way in which she reacted). Wanted to continually compare this book to Fun Home, which I loved.

One plus about the book is that I really liked Sandell's illustrations. Most of the comics I've been reading have been in black and white (which I prefer), but The Impostor's Daughter is all in color and I loved how much depth it brought to the story. Sandell is great at capturing emotion in her illustrations. I really hope you can enlarge the illustration below to see the conflicted feelings Sandell has while listening to her father's stories:

The Impostor's Daughter
In the End:
All in all, I liked this book better than my review comes across. I just wish there would have been a little resolution to Sandell's story. But since it's a "true memoir" I don't know how that could have been different unless she did find resolution. I'm not sure writing this book will give her what she's looking for, but I hope she does eventually find closure to her relationship.

Bookfool asked me "If you had a choice, would you happily let your cat shred and eat it or recommend it enthusiastically to your friends and neighbors?" Luckily Maggie doesn't tear/eat/chew books, but I wouldn't let her shred this one. The illustrations are too beautiful. Not sure I'll be recommending it to my friends and neighbors either. Good news is that there are many people who liked this book better than I did. And I didn't dislike it--just feel kind of wishy washy towards it. Definitely go check out Laurie Sandell's website, though!

Do you think we are products of our childhood? How can we overcome that to become our own person--or will those experiences always color our future?

For a balance of opinions:
Claire from Kiss a Cloud ~ Bermudaonion ~ Alyce from At Home with Books ~ Bookfoolery and Babble ~ Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot ~ Avisannschild
(let me know if I missed yours)


Amanda said...

I've been waffling about this one for ages, but I think I'm going to skip it.

Dar said...

This is one book I didn't have an interest in reading from the first time I saw it although the illustrations sound good. As for being a product of our childhoods, I think so. Our minds are formed so much when we're young and a lot of times as adults I don't think we even realize how much of that residual childhood affects us. Do I think we can change it for the better if it's bad - sure, if we're strong enough.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I won this recently and was looking forward to it, so now I am still looking forward to seeing the illustrations! :--)

Nicole said...

This seems like such an interesting an serious topic that I think I would like to see it in regular book format. I know Maus was handled by graphic novel so that probably has no bearing and is just my preference. Maybe one of these days I will get around to trying a graphic novel.

LisaMM said...

I've only read one graphic novel and I liked it but haven't gone back for more. This one sounds pretty good. I like Bookfool's way of getting down to the nitty gritty (would you let your cat shred it or recommend it enthusiastically?) Isn't there anything in between?? LOL

Lisa said...

You're winning me over to the ways of the graphic novel. Slowly.

I think we're completely formed by our childhood. My dad completely shaped both my brothers (to one extreme) and me to the other. Between the three of us we have all the classic signs of adult children of alcoholics. My middle brother is the worst, but we hit them all.

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book. I think there may not have been resolution at the end because there wasn't resolution in her life.

Melody said...

Sounds wonderful! I don't think I've ever read a memoir in graphic form.

Trish said...

*Amanda - Ehhhh. :) It wouldn't take you long to read, but I'm not sure how well you'd connect with it either.

*Dar - The illustrations in the book are really great. And I agree with you that we are products of childhood, but I do think that with enough work we can change. And of course we continually grow as people.

*Rhapsody - I hope you enjoy it!!

*Nicole - You know, although I think the comic format is effective, there was so much depth that just couldn't be covered with pictures. Maus, however, was perfectly done in comic form. Read that first! :)

*LisaMM - Which graphic novel have you read? I was so terrified of them but have been reading more and more this year. Bookfool is a hoot, huh?

*Lisa - You've got to at least try one. Definitely Maus. Persepolis and Fun Home are also favorites. And yes, I absolutely agree that we're formed by our childhood. We don't have to stay in that mold, but it's hard to break free.

*Bermuda - I don't think there was resolution in her life as well and it really made me wonder what she was gaining from writing the book about her father. Unfortunately I'm not sure it's going to bring her the peace she needs?

Trish said...

*Melody - I missed you. :) Out of the 5 graphic novels I've read, 4 have been memoir/biography. Maus, Fun Home, and Persepolis are all favorites.

samantha.1020 said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this graphic novel even if it wasn't your favorite. I thought you did a great job of sharing what worked and didn't work for you.

Alice Teh said...

I think I'm going to skip this one... Graphic novels are not really on my to-read list but when I do come across them occasionally, I like them!

Alyce said...

I agree with you on all points. The art was good, but the sex scenes I could have lived without. Thanks for linking to my review!

avisannschild said...

You missed my review! (I just linked to yours.) I actually didn't mind the sex scenes (in my opinion, they are tastefully done) and I thought there was enough resolution at the end of the book (although lack of resolution is something that I've felt is a problem in many of the other graphic novels/memoirs I've been reading lately!). Too bad this one didn't work for you. I agree about wanting to compare it to Fun Home, although I read them in the reverse order. And like you, I loved the artwork in this one!

Veens said...

Well, The illustration that you posted is realy good. But I should have nothing to read, to actually go about reading this one!

Well, i think - what happens during childhood sure does makes a part of us, but I also believe tat we are actually products of all the experiences we have during the times we live. Example... we could have a real nice, cosy childhood.. that makes us really sweet person, but then a rough teenage, makes us tough..
I think all though the years we change in different ways, according to different circumstances. But yes, basically deep down, we always nurture the child, the kid we were once! :)

I think so! ;)

Anonymous said...

Great review Trish. I'd like to branch out and try a graphic book. This looks like it may be a good choice for me.

Belle said...

I just got my hands on my first graphic novel memoir today - French Milk. I haven't read The Imposter's Daughter yet. I'm not too sure about it, although the colourful illustrations do look enticing. As for our childhoods (great question!), yes, I think we are shaped by our childhood, but we don't have to have our present governed by our past - I think it's always a choice there for us to make.

Debi said...

I hate trying to review those books that you just can't quite get a handle on your feelings about them...but you did a wonderful job with it, Trish! I have to admit that I just can't quite decide if it's a book I want to read. First Ana, and now you, not hating it, but not loving it, either. I'm guessing that maybe my time would be better spent elsewhere. Like on Persepolis and Fun Home, which *bad me* I still haven't read!!! Of course, that doesn't mean I've really ruled this one out for the future either.

Trish said...

*Samantha - Sometimes I feel like I focus too much on the negatives about a book, but this one was still good.

*Alice Teh - Do you have any graphic novel suggestions that you've really liked?

*Alyce - I think a few sex scenes would have been OK, but the nudity didn't always have a purpose in my opinion.

*Avisannchild - :( It's always inevitable that I miss at least one link. Sorry. Like I told Alyce above, some of the sex scenes were OK but some seemed unnecessary. I take it you didn't like Fun Home as much?

*Veens - You make a great point about how all of our experiences help shape us--I absolutely agree that's true. and nothing's set in stone, right?

*Lola - Graphic novels used to really intimidate me, but I've found them to be really enjoyable. Persepolis and Maus are two excellent starters.

*Belle - Does French Milk have color or black and white illustrations? And yes, what a wonderful thing choice is, huh?

*Debi - No no...read Persepolis or Fun Home first!! I loved this ones whereas this one was just OK for me. I know Ana would agree. ;)

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for your thought provoking review, Trish. I won a copy of this in a giveaway and am looking forward to one day reading it. I really appreciate your insights.

I do believe we are a product of our upbringing. I see it in my own life as well as every day in my job. I also believe that we can use that upbringing as a positive or a negative. We can learn from it and set out to do what we can to be better for it or we can repeat the cycle. I don't think we are ever free of our pasts. They shape who we are, who we become. We wouldn't be who we are today without them.

Bookfool said...

I could have sworn I left a comment, but it must be the fact that I didn't that led me back here.

I thought there was resolution, actually -- that she kind of reached a point of acceptance that her relationship with her dad (and the rest of her family) was never going to be perfect. But, it's been a while since I read the book and I've pretty much forgotten everything. It's not particularly memorable, is it?

Veens said...

Righto Trish :)

avisannschild said...

No need to apologize, Trish! Oh and I didn't mean to imply that I liked Fun Home less -- I actually loved them both. I just meant that I agree, the comparison is almost inevitable, as both deal very much with dysfunctional relationships with larger-than-life fathers.

Nymeth said...

Your thoughts are pretty much my thoughts! As for your final question, I hate fatalism of any kind, so I'm going to go with a resounding no :P I mean, our experiences definitely shape us, but it doesn't end once we leave childhood. We're always changing, always living through new things which leave their mark. If I were solely a product of my childhood I'd be a completely different person than I am now.

PS: And I do agree with what you told Debi :P