Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: The Impostor's Daughter: A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell

The graphic novel is a format I’ve discovered in the past year. The complexity and skill which graphic novelists posses ranges from simple and flat to extraordinarily moving. If you haven’t read a graphic novel before I urge you to give them a try.

“Laurie Sandell grew up in awe – and sometimes in terror – of her larger-than-life father. A former Green Beret with a law degree, a Ph.D, and fluency in several languages… Beguiled and repelled by his outrageous behavior, she grew into a young woman as restless as her father, roaming the globe, trying on her outsized personalities – Tokyo striper, seducers of Yeshiva girls, yogi, Ambien addict.”

This first part of The Impostor's Daughter was jaw-dropping. It was hard to believe the mind games going on in her family. Sandell’s father sounds like a fictional character which is probably why she inserted “true” into the title, just to emphasize that these events actually happened to her.

At times, I didn’t know who I disliked more – Laurie, her father or her mother. I don’t mean to sound harsh. I think Sandell means for the reader to see how selfishly everyone, including herself, behaves. She is honest about her incredible need to be loved by her father which leads her to attempt to be someone just as crazy sounding as her dad is. It’s a roller coaster ride.

“Laurie finally lucked into the perfect job: interviewing celebrities for a top women’s magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father gave her a knack for relating to the stars… Yet even after meeting so many of entertainment’s most intriguing people, it was her father she still desperately wanted to understand. Her Investigation uncovered a staggering secret: her father wasn’t the man he had always claimed to be, not even close.”

So, you may be thinking, how could anyone ever believe her father was telling the truth? Those are some big claims he makes, after all. There are lots of red flags that make Laurie question him, but within this family dynamic, the truth is buried so deep that it takes all the strength she can muster to uncover it.

While she tries to figure out who her father really is, Laurie must face her own demons as well. She checks herself intro rehab (a place which Ashley Judd recommended to her) and realizes that obsessing over her father has lead her down a path she doesn’t want to follow anymore. It takes a lot of guts, but she confronts her father, her mother and her own addictions.

It may seem a little cheesy, the whole rehab bit, but hey, this is a real person’s life and I’m glad she found a way to deal with the craziness around her.

And this was the good part – she finds a way to forgive and let go of her anger even when it’s totally justified. This is what made the book stand out for me.

I’m not an artist so take this with a grain of salt: I wasn’t too impressed with the drawings. The story flowed really well and I didn’t have trouble following the story-board. But the artwork was flat. It did not add to the story in the way I’ve come to expect from graphic novels. However, I did appreciate the bright colors and style. So, while the art may leave graphic novel connoisseurs unimpressed the story was still worthwhile.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2009 – All quotes are from the dust jacket cover.
Source: I won this book from Zia!
Parent alert: there are several nude scenes so it may not be appropriate for young children
Rating: 3.5 Stars      Pages: 247


  1. I just read this over the weekend! As far as the images go, I didn't feel like they added much to the story but were more just present to give the story a visual aid. Really good graphic novels show things in the images that you can't pick up from the text, but in this graphic novel it just felt like support. I liked the story but didn't feel like it went much further than the story- if that makes sense? I felt she could have pushed the idea of spending your whole life one way only to find out it was wrong into a more universal idea. It was a fun, quick read, but not my favorite graphic memoir.

  2. Support - that's a good way of describing it.

    People often write their memoirs many years after the events which they write about. In this case, she wrote it while everything was fresh. I wonder if that didn't contribute to how she presented the themes.

    It was a fun read though and very fast to go through.

  3. I'm just starting to see graphic novels myself and would be interested in what your favourites are. I've only found Shaun Tan to my tastes so far and am struggling to find that art/story balance.
    Poppy Red

  4. Hi again Chelle,
    Thank you for your reply on my little blog. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

    Funnily enough, Maus 1 was a required reading text in a history unit I was looking at doing as an elective at uni last year. Unfortunately I didn't have room for the unit, but am now intrigued by Maus.

    Other than Shaun Tan, I've only read Stitches by David Small - a memoir. I found the story touchingly tragic, but the art was very disturbing and really put me off.

    Recently I've ordered The Exile by Diana Gabaldon as a companion work to her Outlander romance series and am awaiting its arrival with fannish excitement. I hope to find Maus in my travels and continue my graphic novel education in the future.

    Poppy Red