Ever since she was young, Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. The stories of these independent women intrigued Klam, but as she delved into them to learn more, she realized that the tales were almost completely untrue.
... detail, along with plenty of self-deprecating humor...makes Klam's 'true story of a family fiction' so relatable and such an enjoyable read ... an engrossing search for truth and how learning that truth might affect identity, a crucial aspect for Klam and one she touches on over and over again ... a serious quest, but Klam's touch is light ... Some truly astonishing discoveries about the sisters await the reader, but the book flirts with the possibility of disappointment, that the lack of information and "brick walls" that Klam runs into will translate into a book that just peters out, leaving these fascinating people lost to history. As the conclusion nears, regret is palpable. Instead, a wave of good fortune saves the day ... Klam might not have gotten the moon, but she did capture the stars.
What powers this book is the chase, Klam’s relentless effort to excavate, verify and contextualize every fact and facet of the Morris sisters’ lives ... is very much a research-driven book, but what elevates it beyond a glorified fact-checking assignment is Klam’s palpable yearning — she wants to know who these women were, what they went through, how it shaped them. It is biography as an expression of love ... the book sometimes reads as a kind of frenzied paean to local record-keeping ... It’s easy and pleasurable to follow Klam wherever she goes. She has a light touch, and is unpretentious, self-effacing, quippy; she is the kind of obsessive who’s fun to listen to ... There’s a strain of mawkishness and cheap pathos I could have done without, and the quips can wear thin, but those are minor sins; you roll your eyes and continue reading. Less forgivable is Klam’s tendency to succumb to a kind of speculative sentimentality .. .the overall effect is lovely. As the rumors and myths are pruned and the gaps filled in, the Morris sisters emerge and differentiate themselves, and Klam, movingly, is there to meet them.
... a divertingly chatty yet thought-provoking exploration of how the family stories we don’t know can define us just as much as the ones we think we do ... At times, Klam can ramble and become repetitive, but her lively wit carries us along. With genealogical quests all the rage, Klam’s book serves as a droll guide for other ancestry seekers. It’s also a cautionary tale about the obsessional nature of such a search and the bracing truths that may lie buried beneath the family lore.