"If You Could See Me Now"
(Reviewed by Mary Whipple MAY 1, 2006)
"I'm not looking for someone to be my parent. I had a wonderful mother and father and a happy childhood. I don't want to barge into anybody else's life or upset you and your family. I'm not expecting a public acknowledgment of paternity. I'd just like to meet you and find my mother, but if that's not possible, I'll be satisfied with some background information and a medical history."
In this compelling non-fiction story of adoption and its aftermath, author Michael Mewshaw recounts a phone call he received from his sister, the call that begins this book about searches—not just the search of a young woman wanting answers about her parentage, but also the search for answers by Mewshaw and the several other people intimately involved in this story. Mewshaw's sister is not "Amy's" mother, as Amy thinks she is, but Karen Mewshaw takes the girl's name and phone number and passes them along to her brother, "just in case." She has remembered some unusual events that occurred when her brother was a young college student and thinks he might want this information.
Most of the story cannot be summarized here without spoiling the suspense for the reader, but it does not reveal too much to say that Mewshaw knows that he is not Amy's father. He has been, however, a party to her adoption, having been deeply in love with Amy's birth mother whom he helped through her pregnancy. In the thirty years that have elapsed since then, Mewshaw has frequently thought about "Adrienne Daly," the name he gives the mother here, a high-profile beauty long involved in Republican politics, who once held the position of Undersecretary of State and an ambassadorship. Mewshaw, author of ten novels, has often used Adrienne as a model for his female characters, and though he is happily married and has two children of his own, he has always wondered what would have happened with Adrienne if….
Calling Amy on the phone, he is charmed by her demeanor, and when he sees her photo, he is stunned by her resemblance to Adrienne. Vowing to help her, he digs into the past and tries to reconnect with Adrienne. As each person is drawn into Amy's search, the reader sees the complexity of the adoption issue, not from the point of view of the adoptee, but from that of the then-young people who chose adoption as the best option—the lasting effects on their lives, their second thoughts, their memories, their new starts.
Mewshaw's success as the author of ten novels and six books of non-fiction holds him in good stead here. His story is fast-paced, the suspense builds effectively, and the dialogue is natural and realistic. Dividing the novel into three parts, Mewshaw first recreates Amy's initial contact with him, her early search for information from the agency which handled her adoption, and the support of her adoptive mother. In successive sections, he reveals his own childhood, his college years, his relationship with Adrienne, and his decision to help her; and finally, in the present, he focuses on his developing relationship with Amy, his reconnection with Adrienne after thirty years, and on the changes that have been wrought by their decision.
Thoughtfully written and realistic, without any hearts-and-flowers sentimentality, this book addresses issues from a far broader perspective than that of adoptee and the birth parents--others, after all, are always involved, too. As Mewshaw shows each person considering this complex issue and making an irrevocable decision at a very young age, we see that there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" here, just people trying to live their lives the best way they can at various points in their personal histories. As he connects the past with the present, the reader sees each person revisiting that life-changing decision thirty years later. We see life in all its complexity, and, as he depicts this most complex of decisions, made when all the parties were very young, Mewshaw performs a service which many adoptive parents and their children will find enlightening.
- Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Life for Death: A True Story of Crime and Punishment (1980)
- Short Circuit (1983)
- Money to Burn: The True Story of the Benson Family Murders (1987)
- Playing Away: Roman Holidays & Other Mediterrean Excursions (1988)
- Ladies of the Court: Grace and Disgrace on the Women's Tennis Tour (1993)
- Do I Owe You Something? A Memoir of the Literary Life (2003)
- If You Could See Me Now (April 2006)
- Between Terror and Tourism: An Overland Journey Across North Africa (February 2010)
- Man in Motion (1971)
- Waking Slowly (1973)
- The Toll (1974)
- Earthly Bread (1976)
- Land Without Shadow (1979)
- Year of the Gun (1984)
- Blackballed (1986)
- True Crime (1991)
- Shelter from the Storm (2003)
- Island Tempest (2004)
- Lying with the Dead (October 2009)
Movies from books:
- Year of the Gun (1991)
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- Vagabonding essay by Michael Mewshaw
- BookBrowse interview with Michael Mewshaw
- MostlyFiction.com review of Lying with the Dead
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About the Author:
Michael Mewshaw was born in 1943 and has written both fiction and nonfiction. His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Statesman, Granta, and other newspapers and journals around the world. Mewshaw lives in Key West, Florida and Europe.