cover image Famous Adopted People

Famous Adopted People

Alice Stephens. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $18.99 trade paper (330p) ISBN 978-1-944700-74-4

In her tragicomic debut, sardonic and sincere in turn, Stephens follows an adoptee’s eventful search for her birth mother. Urged by her best friend (and fellow adoptee) Mindy, 27-year-old Lisa travels to South Korea to meet with an agency called MotherFinders. She’s initially told that her birth mother is completely untraceable. The half-white, half-Korean Lisa becomes easily entranced and seduced by the handsome Harrison, whom she initially believes is a handler for MotherFinders but is, in fact, working for a mysterious white woman named Honey. Harrison’s promised weekend of debauchery ends with Lisa awakening in Honey’s underground compound—north of the DMZ. Lisa soon learns that her reasons for landing there center around a very powerful family secret. Addicted to plastic surgery, surrounded by sycophants and North Korean supporters, and seemingly devoid of genuine compassion, Honey tries to remake Lisa in her own image. But Lisa—whose self-understanding has always been slippery at best—must learn how to reclaim agency in her own life. Peppered with moments of political satire and heartfelt introspection, Stephens’s novel also offers a fun-house depiction of the absurdities and horrors of the surveillance state. This is an excellent debut. (Oct.)