[Book Review] The English American

Alison Larkin's semi-autobiographical novel centers on an adoptee — raised in England, but born in America. Read the review, here.

Cover of The English American by Alison Larkin

Simon & Schuster; 2009

Buy The English American on Amazon.com >

Alison Larkin speaks with a posh British accent and drinks her tea with milk. Adopted at birth by an English couple, she grew up prim and respectable, mirroring the values she learned in her happy, stable family and at an English boarding school. Until she was 18 years old, she didn’t know that deep inside of her beat the heart of a country gal from Bald Mountain, Tennessee.

To be sure, there were clues along the way, although she didn’t understand their source. She knew she was adopted, but nobody told her from where. Even at boarding school, Alison had a penchant for American popular culture and often bubbled with a very un-English enthusiasm. Can such predilections be genetic, like hair color? What about a taste for scones with clotted cream? She has that, too.

With wit, a light touch, and brilliant comic timing, Larkin sweeps the nature-nurture debate for every last crumb of hilarity. But don’t be fooled: Her search and reunion with her American birth mother was no cakewalk. Retrieving her genetic history “certainly answered a great many questions,” Larkin writes on her Web site, “and certainly helped me work out who I really amand who I am not. But without professional help from a counselor or support group familiar with the territory, the experience was more traumatic than it needed to be.”

Hilarity from trauma? You bet. As Carol Burnett put it, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”

Larkins highly acclaimed one-woman show, The English American, is now available on MP3 CD for those not fortunate enough to see her act in person. With comedic verve and brilliant impersonations, she links the worlds of her upright English mum and her all-American birth mother through the international adoption that made her who she is.

“Everybody should be adopted,” Larkin concludes. “That way, you can meet your birth parents when you are old enough to cope with them.”

Read an excerpt of The English American here.

Reviewed by Amy Klatzkin, a contributing editor to Adoptive Families Magazine.


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