Debra Levi Holtz, Author . Council Oak $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-57178-100-0

When Holtz, a former staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, was in her early 30s, married and a mother of two, she set out to find her birth parents. Her memoir begins with this intriguing scene: One night in 1959, a lawyer arranged for a smiling, well-educated woman named Helen to pass her newborn baby through a car window to Lynn and Manny Skar. Six years later, Manny, a mobster, was gunned down in the street near the family's Chicago apartment house. Holtz's memoir focuses on her search for—and bewildering interactions with—her birth mother, Helen, who turns out to be a delusional and eccentric Ayn Rand follower, given to weirdly Randian pronouncements, like calling Holtz's "invasion of [her] privacy... a precursor to violence." At first the book is suspenseful: Holtz speculates that Helen's con man boyfriend may have been her father, and fears the possibility that Helen will retaliate physically, attacking Holtz and her family. Holtz uses her journalistic skills to research her family's strange story—and to weave it into a gripping narrative. But readers lured by the intriguing jacket and the fast-paced first half into expecting an electrifying climax will be disappointed. Still, fans of family drama and anyone involved with adoption issues will find Holtz's story both instructive and touching. (May)

Forecast:A $20,000 marketing campaign, including an author tour to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, should help this book ride the continuing enthusiasm for family memoir.

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 06/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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