The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters: A True Story of Family Fiction

Julie Klam. Riverhead, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1642-6
Klam (The Stars in Our Eyes) mines the complicated past of her grandmother’s four cousins in her half-baked genealogical memoir. “How much of what defines us at various points in our lives is based on what we are told by the people we trust,” she writes, explaining how the “strange” family lore she grew up with was full of embellishments and gaps in memory. The story that preoccupied her most was that of the Morris sisters—who came to America in the early 20th century, were orphaned in the Midwest, and eventually became millionaires in New York City—one that was discovered to have been more misinformation than facts. In colloquial prose, Klam sets out to understand the lives of these “completely crazy, obscenely wealthy” women, incorporating excerpts from email exchanges and letters with family members and genealogical experts along the way. She learns that, despite toiling in industries dominated by men—one sister was a successful Wall Street financier—the Morrises were anomalies of their time, as they only did business with other women, “leaving the bulk of their money for the benefit of female related causes,” according to a second cousin. While their feminist ideals make for fascinating material, Klam fails to paint the sisters as interesting, multidimensional characters, favoring her process over her subjects. By the book’s end, readers may be left with more questions than answers. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 07/07/2021
Release date: 08/10/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-7352-1644-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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