cover image Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets

Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets

Kyo Maclear. Scribner, $29 (416p) ISBN 978-1-66801-260-4

Novelist Maclear (Birds Art Love) meditates on genealogy and family secrets in this impressive memoir. In 2019, three months after the man who raised her died, Maclear discovered through a DNA test that he was not her biological father. She first sought the truth about her parentage from her Japanese mother, whose health was rapidly declining, but was forced to find most of the answers herself. In short sections named for the 24 seasons of the traditional Japanese calendar, Maclear unravels her family’s history, exploring how her surrogate father’s infidelity, her parents’ infertility, and her mother’s secrets influenced her own views on love and family: “Marital love is extreme. It is stamina,” she writes. “Marital love with complications or doubts is not a fiasco. It is a marriage.” Throughout, Maclear finds beauty in the natural world, tapping into interests, such as gardening, that she inherited from her mother: “I tend the soil for my sons now. In my mother’s shadow, I am learning how love vacillates.” As she uncovers previously unknown Jewish ancestry, she expands her understanding of her own mixed-race heritage, and the ways blood relationship have and haven’t impacted her sense of self. Maclear’s precise, hypnotic prose will appeal to readers of Margaret Renkl. This quiet story lingers. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative. (Aug.)