Reviewed by me for Reader’s Favorite.
Imagine that you were adopted but nobody told you; however, by the behavior of your mom (or the person whom you considered to be your birth mother), you always suspected that you were adopted. Hurtful, right? It’s bad enough to not know for twenty-five long years that you were adopted, but what’s worse is suspecting that you are not living with your biological parents by observing their biased and unkind behavior towards you. Even imagining such a situation gives me goosebumps, but this had been Jackie Ruchti’s reality until she turned twenty-five. In her memoir, Daughter, Undefined, she has shared how tough life has been for her. She and her twin brother, Jack, were, of course, both adopted; nevertheless, their parents’ treatment was entirely different towards both of them. Jack and their real kids were treated kindly and with utmost care — in short, exactly how kids should be treated — whereas Jackie was treated like an outsider. Her mom used to beat her up, mostly, when no one was looking. The beatings were so bad that Jackie feared her mom up until she (Jackie) turned forty. Her parents used to lock her outside whenever they used to go out as if she would steal something from her own house. Her father, the one who had adopted her, was good to her until one day he thought she was embarrassed by him. Instead of clarifying the misunderstanding, he chose to stop being a good father to her. What I wonder is why didn’t Jackie try to clear the air?
She led a really tough life. In her desperation to escape from her parents, she married her boyfriend, Vince, when she was only sixteen years old. Vince was an abusive guy — both emotionally and physically. He cheated with other women after marriage. Needless to say, the marriage did not last. Jackie had other relationships too but these partners, too, failed to provide her the love that she deserved. Reading about the way these men treated her was absolutely devastating. I could not believe what I was reading. How can someone be so cruel to anyone? There were times when I wanted to wipe Jackie’s tears and comfort her, but there were also certain times when I wanted to shake her and ask her why she was going back to her abusive boyfriend/husband. When I read that her mom used to deny her basic needs, including, but not limited to, sanitary pads and underwear, it made my blood boil. What kind of woman would do that to a child, let alone her adopted daughter?
There are so many takeaways from this memoir for daughters, parents (esp. adoptive ones), and women. Above all that this is a story of survival. Jackie’s braveness is praiseworthy. As she is primarily an emotional human being, I am sure she would not agree with being tagged as a courageous person, but she really is. She lost so many battles, but she did not stop fighting. Her “family” tried to push her out at every chance they got, even though she had done nothing wrong to any one of them, but she kept doing the right thing by all of them. Her sister stole Jackie’s child and nobody tried to intervene, still, Jackie tried to patch things up with her. That’s the kind of person that she is.
Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is a well-written memoir that reflects the emotional turmoil of an adopted person, irrespective of the age when they officially get to know about their adoption. If you are a reader that likes to read and understand another person’s life, then you would love this memoir.