For Mary Anna King, losing sisters was a normal part of her life. Mary Anna King’s debut novel “Bastards,” an account of loss, separation and Mary’s journey to define family, comes out June 2015.
It started when she was 14 months old. Her mother’s stepmother, Mimi, took her little sister, Becky Jo, because her mother and father couldn’t afford medical treatment that Becky Jo needed. King and her older brother, Jacob, were left with a pregnant mother, Peggy, who was desperately trying to do right by her children and save her marriage at the same time. Their father, Michael, was a guitar strumming Christian who felt he had a ministry to convey, and who felt that living with his wife and taking care of his children was not a part of God’s plan for him. King’s mother gave her second little sister, Lisa, up for adoption when King was two-and-a-half years old. This was a first in a series of events that would eventually define King’s existence.
King ultimately experienced her mother giving away four baby girls before King, Jacob, and Becky Jo themselves were adopted by King’s maternal grandparents and taken to live in Oklahoma. King studied English Literature at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York before moving to Los Angeles where she currently lives and writes. “Bastards” is King’s first novel and memoir, but King also has a short story published in “Quaint Magazine.”
“Bastards” follows King’s life from early childhood into early adulthood, but the reader still gets to know a lot of the characters that move in and out of King’s life through her poignant descriptions. When King describes her bible-thumping, guitar-strumming, ministry-preaching father, the concept of his overwhelming personality is clear.
King writes, “Leaning off the edge of a sofa, tapping his feet on the floor, and singing sad songs about dry levees, my daddy was lit up from the inside. Everyone within arm’s reach wanted to bask in the glow he gave off.”
Throughout the novel, King continues to describe her life in emotionally challenging moments. Watching her sister, Becky Jo, being taken away, meeting the families that will take away her subsequent baby sisters, learning to stop waiting for a father who won’t always show up. When King writes about these moments, her writing is so raw and real that the reader can’t help but feel the emotional pull of the story. When talking about the moment she and her siblings realized that their mother couldn’t take care of them anymore, the reader’s heart breaks with King’s.
King writes, “It was the sucking sound of the air rushing over your head in a car crash, the sound the wind made when you were hurtling forward so fast that the speed of sound catches up to the speed of light, and that was the sound of everything breaking apart.”
“Bastards” is a quick but impactful read that lets the reader look through a window into a life they most likely will never experience. The memoir is broken into three chunks of King’s life: her childhood in New Jersey, her adolescence in Oklahoma, and her early adulthood spent getting to know her long-lost sisters as, one-by-one, they turn eighteen. King’s writing style is simplistic, full of short sentences, and carefully chosen phrases that hit the reader where it counts. For the most part, King’s story is left to stand on its own.
King’s haunting and heart-warming memoir about loss, self-discovery, and reunion tells the tale of an unconventional family who found ways to love each other through different definitions of the word.
King writes, “So what if we weren’t the first definition, the purest form of the thing? A lesser-used form is no less true. Love wasn’t about affection. It was about nourishment. It was about showing up.”
Kara Delemeester can be reached at Kara.firstname.lastname@example.org.