Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 384 pages
First Published: 2022
Former poet laureate Dorothy Moy has always channeled her dissociative episodes and mental health into her work. When her daughter starts showing similar behaviors and remembering items from the lives of past ancestors, Dorothy worries she’ll lose custody. So she undergoes an experimental treatment to alleviate inherited trauma, becoming intimately connected with the past generations of women in her family.
Jamie Ford’s premise is an ambitious undertaking, but he succeeds in giving each time period a distinct feel. Quickly, you’ll become attached to each character’s short story, which was a bit depressing when you realize that each ancestor’s story will end badly, hence the inherited trauma. Dorothy’s timeline was not as intriguing as the rest since she was a foil to dive into the accumulated weight of trauma, but overall the story makes you stop and think.
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.