“When I enter the kitchen the large table is set for four and I find my seat at one end and another worry enters my mind: I hope I haven’t waited too long.” In 2008 Julie Ryan McGue had a health scare. Wanting to have a more accurate picture of her medical history since she was adopted, she, along with her twin sister Jenny, embarked on a quest to find their biological parents. She meticulously records the odyssey in Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging.
I read McGue’s book with great interest. Family history, sleuthing, and solving mysteries all hold great appeal. The author painstakingly reveals each step, some easy, some littered with many obstacles. She is honest with her emotions, which ran the gamut from anxiety, rejection, confusion, anger, and joy. I was somewhat surprised at her bristly attitude toward her adopted mother, Jeanne. McGue seemed at times impatient and even a little dismissive of her mother’s reactions and emotions.
At the launch of each new chapter I eagerly dove in, unsure what would surface, but impatient to discover. Although supported by her twin, McGue spearheaded the majority of the project, from online research, fielding phone calls, and finding new avenues of outreach. Her search can serve as a provisional self-help guide to others attempting to find their own answers concerning adoption, especially in Illinois. I was unaware of much of the nuances of the process, procedure, and legal wrangling.
Two of the most significant reveals were quite ironic. McGue documents just how close her adopted family was, at times, to some of her biological relatives. And, a DNA test proved she and Jenny were identical twins, not fraternal as their adopted parents had been told by the nuns. Initially when I read they were fraternal twins, I was confused, since it was clear to me from the cover picture they were identical.
McGue sought answers about her unknown family history for medical reasons, but also for clues pertaining to her own identity. She found some of the answers, but had to accept that others remained beyond her reach. I enjoyed the experience of peeking into the personal lives of her family, during a very emotional journey. Twice a Daughter is a testament to evolving social norms, eradicating the former shame of illicit pregnancy, and a recognition of family bonds.