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"Gut-wrenching and absorbing...in the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle."—BOOKLIST "a story of redemption and forgiveness."—MARY BETH KEANE, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Impressive... Readers will find themselves recalibrating their judgments about villains and victims"–—BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW) For 50 years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. N "Gut-wrenching and absorbing...in the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle."—BOOKLIST "a story of redemption and forgiveness."—MARY BETH KEANE, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Impressive... Readers will find themselves recalibrating their judgments about villains and victims"–—BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW) For 50 years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. No one outside her immediate family would have guessed that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: a mentally ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards throughout Stephanie's formative years, neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and worse. Stephanie, in turn, knew very little about the past of her mother, from whom she remained estranged during most of her adult life. All this changed with a phone call that set a journey of discovery in motion, leading to a series of shocking revelations that forced Stephanie to revise the meaning of almost every aspect of her very compromised childhood. American Daughter is at once the deeply moving memoir of a troubled mother-daughter relationship and a meditation on resilience, transcendence, and redemption. Stephanie's story is unique but its messages are universal, offering insight into what it means to rise above, heal, and forgive.


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"Gut-wrenching and absorbing...in the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle."—BOOKLIST "a story of redemption and forgiveness."—MARY BETH KEANE, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Impressive... Readers will find themselves recalibrating their judgments about villains and victims"–—BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW) For 50 years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. N "Gut-wrenching and absorbing...in the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle."—BOOKLIST "a story of redemption and forgiveness."—MARY BETH KEANE, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Impressive... Readers will find themselves recalibrating their judgments about villains and victims"–—BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW) For 50 years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. No one outside her immediate family would have guessed that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: a mentally ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards throughout Stephanie's formative years, neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and worse. Stephanie, in turn, knew very little about the past of her mother, from whom she remained estranged during most of her adult life. All this changed with a phone call that set a journey of discovery in motion, leading to a series of shocking revelations that forced Stephanie to revise the meaning of almost every aspect of her very compromised childhood. American Daughter is at once the deeply moving memoir of a troubled mother-daughter relationship and a meditation on resilience, transcendence, and redemption. Stephanie's story is unique but its messages are universal, offering insight into what it means to rise above, heal, and forgive.

30 review for American Daughter: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Non-Fiction/Biography Memoir/Autobiography. This book was really good in parts, but other parts I found very boring and slow moving. I feel for this girl/woman in this book. Overall I found this book thought-provoking, but in parts I found the pacing was off. I liked this book, but I did not love this book. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (HarperOne) or author (Stephanie Thornton Plymale with Elissa Wald) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review abou This is a Non-Fiction/Biography Memoir/Autobiography. This book was really good in parts, but other parts I found very boring and slow moving. I feel for this girl/woman in this book. Overall I found this book thought-provoking, but in parts I found the pacing was off. I liked this book, but I did not love this book. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (HarperOne) or author (Stephanie Thornton Plymale with Elissa Wald) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. (*)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Stephanie Plymale speaks from the heart and shares a touching and moving chronicle of her survival from a horrendous childhood. SUMMARY American Daughter is Stephanie Thornton Plymale’s memoir. Her childhood was a series of nightmares, thanks to a mentally-ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards. Stephanie experienced neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, abuse, and inadequate education. Stephanie now in her fifties is successful and has risen above her hor Stephanie Plymale speaks from the heart and shares a touching and moving chronicle of her survival from a horrendous childhood. SUMMARY American Daughter is Stephanie Thornton Plymale’s memoir. Her childhood was a series of nightmares, thanks to a mentally-ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards. Stephanie experienced neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, abuse, and inadequate education. Stephanie now in her fifties is successful and has risen above her horrendous childhood. Stephanie and her mom have been estranged during most of Stephanie’s adult life. But that all changed with a phone call from her mother telling her that that she was terminal ill. This call set Stephanie on a road of discovery about her mom, allowing for reconciliation and healing. “But at the moment, I could only stand as if rooted in the middle of the room, overwhelmed by a desire so fierce it was like a revelation. This, I thought. I want this. And one day I’ll have it. “ REVIEW AMERICAN DAUGHTER is a touching chronicle of Stephanie’s dreadful childhood. I appreciate her ability and her willingness to share some brutally honest revelations with us. She speaks from the heart and shares a moving story. Her writing is clear and concise. One of the most amazing thing about this story is that Stephanie is okay. Despite everything she experienced as a child, she had the strength and fortitude to rise above her past and survived. She not only survived but flourished. She is a successful business women, an educator, and a happy wife and mother. How did she do that? The story of her childhood is wrenching. This book is difficult to read in places but it’s real, and people need to know and understand what happens in situations where a parent is mentally-ill, and with children in the foster care. The “system” failed Stephanie and her family. They fell between the cracks. She was failed by the school system, the child protection system, the legal system, and the healthcare system We need to take action to prevent this from happening to others. If you liked books like Educated or Glass Castles you will find this book intriguing and thought provoking. Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publisher Greenleaf Book Group and River Grove Books Published February 11, 2020 Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jantine

    This is the tale of a strong woman, a survivor. It feels strange to review it, because it feels like reviewing someone's life. I mostly want to thank Stephanie for sharing her life and her memories with us. I'm glad you are a survivor, because I am sure the world is more beautiful with you in it. I received a free copy through Netgalley, in turn for an honest review. This is the tale of a strong woman, a survivor. It feels strange to review it, because it feels like reviewing someone's life. I mostly want to thank Stephanie for sharing her life and her memories with us. I'm glad you are a survivor, because I am sure the world is more beautiful with you in it. I received a free copy through Netgalley, in turn for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    I found this to be a very gripping book once I got fully into it, with its delving into the author and her dying mother’s background, and their painful interactions. It eased into becoming one of those page turners that I stayed up all night reading to the finish, despite no plans to do so. It’s very moving and painful, amazing at times, quite a read. If you have an interest in this type of read, you might want to give it a look also. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, aut I found this to be a very gripping book once I got fully into it, with its delving into the author and her dying mother’s background, and their painful interactions. It eased into becoming one of those page turners that I stayed up all night reading to the finish, despite no plans to do so. It’s very moving and painful, amazing at times, quite a read. If you have an interest in this type of read, you might want to give it a look also. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Stephanie Thornton Plymale & Elissa Wald, and the publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Angela Williamson

    Stephanie lived in and out of foster care her whole life. She survived not just one, but two auto accidents which should have killed her. The neglect and abuse she suffered would have crippled most people. Instead, Stephanie became everything she ever wanted in a mother. A successful businesswoman, a wife, a mother of three healthy, well adjusted children and finally, the caretaker for her mother. Her mother spent too many years in and out of jail, psychiatric hospitals, and had more boyfriends Stephanie lived in and out of foster care her whole life. She survived not just one, but two auto accidents which should have killed her. The neglect and abuse she suffered would have crippled most people. Instead, Stephanie became everything she ever wanted in a mother. A successful businesswoman, a wife, a mother of three healthy, well adjusted children and finally, the caretaker for her mother. Her mother spent too many years in and out of jail, psychiatric hospitals, and had more boyfriends than a mom should expose her children to. Stephanie spent the last years of her mother's life learning about the trauma her mother endured, the family that she never knew about and most importantly about the power of forgiveness. This book does not let you go from the first pages. A beautiful story of a life lived well, forgiveness and the love of a family and how it can change you. Thank you NetGalley for the chance to read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    I'm clearly in the minority on this one, but it just wasn't for me. It's hard to write reviews of memoirs. You feel like you're reviewing someone's life and their innermost thoughts, and that's not what I'm trying to do. I didn't care for the writing, and the way they authored would foreshadow future events ("[it was the] last time I would ever see her"). I found myself skimming quite a lot. I think the author's story is breathtaking. She and her mother have both been through so much, and there's I'm clearly in the minority on this one, but it just wasn't for me. It's hard to write reviews of memoirs. You feel like you're reviewing someone's life and their innermost thoughts, and that's not what I'm trying to do. I didn't care for the writing, and the way they authored would foreshadow future events ("[it was the] last time I would ever see her"). I found myself skimming quite a lot. I think the author's story is breathtaking. She and her mother have both been through so much, and there's so much that's terrible and shocking. I just wish the writing told the story better so that it could have been a more immersive experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Luanne Ollivier

    The most fascinating, captivating, gut wrenching, heart breaking tales are those that are true. Such as Stephanie Thornton Plymale's memoir - American Daughter. Stephanie and her five siblings grew up in chaos - neglect, abuse, hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty and more. Their mother fought many demons - substance abuse, alcoholism and mental illness. Despite the odds, Stephanie educated herself, got married, had children, ran a college and lived an enviable life. From the outside looking in, The most fascinating, captivating, gut wrenching, heart breaking tales are those that are true. Such as Stephanie Thornton Plymale's memoir - American Daughter. Stephanie and her five siblings grew up in chaos - neglect, abuse, hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty and more. Their mother fought many demons - substance abuse, alcoholism and mental illness. Despite the odds, Stephanie educated herself, got married, had children, ran a college and lived an enviable life. From the outside looking in, she was a success. But like that old saying goes - she was '...like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath." It was not until she was in her fifties that Stephanie decided to try and find answers, reasons, cement her sketchy memories and finally ask her mother for truths This was a last chance as her mother was dying. What she found was not at all what she expected. She learned more about her family, discovered relatives and saw her mother in a different light as she grew to know her as a person with her own struggles and demons. Stephanie found answers, healing and reconciliation. And herself. This is not an easy read, so gentle readers be forewarned. But it's a true read. I am sure that Stephanie's story will resonate with many readers - for what happened to her and perhaps themselves. Sadly, there are many children living the same childhood she did. It's impossible to judge someone's life. I applaud her honesty in sharing her life and her goal to "inspire others to share their stories, receive support and feel empowered by their ability to survive, forgive, heal, transcend and live the life of their dreams." This was a five star read for me. If you enjoyed North of Normal, Educated or The Glass Castle, you'll enjoy American Daughter.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy White

    Stephanie’s memoir is a captivating true story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you feeling inspired. Despite the hardship she experienced as a child, from homelessness, neglect, and an estranged relationship with her mother, she grew into a strong, accomplished and nurturing woman with no regrets and no grudges. This story of overcoming will encourage you to achieve your dreams no matter what might be standing in your way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michi Suzuki

    This book was INCREDIBLE, I finished it in 2 days. Written in such a powerful, raw and emotional manner - it had me in tears followed by waves of inspiration, hope and so much empathy for this author. She has a story to share with the world and one that will hopefully take away the very important messages and lessons I took away from it. Incredible. A must read for everyone. Thank you, Stephanie Thornton Plymale.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This is such an incredible story. So many emotions went through me the whole time I read this book. I, like many others, wondered how the author turned out so well after what she experienced growing up and even more as an adult I highly recommend this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joann 'bartunek' prashek

    Another great read, captivating me from page one. Stephanie's distressing life story is told with dignity. Another great read, captivating me from page one. Stephanie's distressing life story is told with dignity.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    “Find a way to be the love you didn’t get.” Stephanie Thornton Plymale endured poverty, neglect, a mentally unhealthy mother, sexual assault and more during her childhood. But thankfully she found her husband and, with his help, became the love she didn’t get as a child. I’m a huge fan of memoirs and I highly recommend this one that highlights how the systems of this country are failing many. This one has been compared to The Glass Castle and I can see why—I loved it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    A painful memoir of a Survivor that endured years of abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness and her mother’s mental illness and addictions with her siblings. It’s the Author’s incredible story of being able to rise above and become a success despite her past trauma. A deeply moving, powerful and heartfelt read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Janis Howard

    This was a powerful read beginning with the first paragraph! I could NOT stop. I was impacted emotionally about this woman’s journey through her childhood. It is Stephanie’s life beginning with her as a child and the relationships that led her to who she is today: a woman who positively empowers others. . .

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katheryne

    I really wanted to love this memoir, and while I understand the author’s life is heartbreaking and compelling and tragic, the writing and style were not for me. There is a great life story here and it could have been told in a more linear fashion, with more focus on her childhood. The fights and drama with her husband, the detailed descriptions of design, adoption, and an almost-affair were not integrated into the main thrust of the story with fluidity or intention. They slowed the narrative dow I really wanted to love this memoir, and while I understand the author’s life is heartbreaking and compelling and tragic, the writing and style were not for me. There is a great life story here and it could have been told in a more linear fashion, with more focus on her childhood. The fights and drama with her husband, the detailed descriptions of design, adoption, and an almost-affair were not integrated into the main thrust of the story with fluidity or intention. They slowed the narrative down and could have been left out. The outbursts towards her mom (as an adult) were written in a way that made me cringe - feeling empathy for her mom and making the author appear childish and selfish. I don’t think this is the author’s intention, however, and these scenes could have been improved in revisions and edits. The foreshadowing at the end of the chapters was unnecessary and ineffective and is best left to fiction, which this book is not. The best part of the book was the epilogue, where the author showed introspection and maturity when reflecting on her life and family. It’s unfortunate this writing style at the end didn’t start at the beginning. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced readers copy. All opinions are my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Vandekraak

    American Daughter is a raw and riveting story of hardship, injustice, and generational redemption. From the first till the last page I was captivated and spellbound and could not put the book down. The life-story of the author, Stephanie Thornton Plymale, is the story of America – the real and unvarnished America. A little girl who is the casualty of her mother’s trauma and yet refuses to succumb to be a victim herself. The author’s life allows us to see, as through a dark glass clearly, the ref American Daughter is a raw and riveting story of hardship, injustice, and generational redemption. From the first till the last page I was captivated and spellbound and could not put the book down. The life-story of the author, Stephanie Thornton Plymale, is the story of America – the real and unvarnished America. A little girl who is the casualty of her mother’s trauma and yet refuses to succumb to be a victim herself. The author’s life allows us to see, as through a dark glass clearly, the reflection of our own country. A country with rough and raw edges, gritty and dark, yet dogged and determined. American Daughter, however, is ultimately about the deep-seated human longing to be found and to be known for who we truly are. American Daughter is a must read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Easton

    I haven't been this moved by a book in ages. I read it in 2 days and couldn't put it down. The author’s tragic and staggeringly beautiful story is told with dignity and grace. Her life story is compelling, but more so is the outcome. Rising above all she endured, Plymale not only created a life of beauty for herself and her family, but she also brought healing to those who harmed her or weren’t there for her throughout her life. Her words in this book are a gift to those who are downtrodden and I haven't been this moved by a book in ages. I read it in 2 days and couldn't put it down. The author’s tragic and staggeringly beautiful story is told with dignity and grace. Her life story is compelling, but more so is the outcome. Rising above all she endured, Plymale not only created a life of beauty for herself and her family, but she also brought healing to those who harmed her or weren’t there for her throughout her life. Her words in this book are a gift to those who are downtrodden and seek to rise above their circumstances. And they are a gift to those who have the means to reach out and help others in need. This book is both gut-wrenching and inspirational. I highly highly recommend it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cara Murray

    A fascinating memoir, American Daughter will challenge your preconceptions and inspire you to examine your own family lineage. Stephanie shares her story with poignant grace and honesty and is an example of strength, courage, and unwavering determination in the face of unspeakable hardship. Her journey to uncover the truths of her past will stick with you for years to come. Loved this read!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Stephanie Thornton Plymale had a rough life, to put it mildly. She grew up with an absentee addict mother who spent years in mental institutions and jails, with a similarly addicted and apathetic crook of a stepfather. When her mother was around, she was emotionally manipulative to Stephanie and her three siblings, refusing to be a provider, putting her kids in danger constantly, showing herself to be a pathological liar, intervening where she wasn't wanted, so much so that Stephanie took out tw Stephanie Thornton Plymale had a rough life, to put it mildly. She grew up with an absentee addict mother who spent years in mental institutions and jails, with a similarly addicted and apathetic crook of a stepfather. When her mother was around, she was emotionally manipulative to Stephanie and her three siblings, refusing to be a provider, putting her kids in danger constantly, showing herself to be a pathological liar, intervening where she wasn't wanted, so much so that Stephanie took out two stalking orders against her mother. As a child, Stephanie spent years in and out of California's foster system as the dependent of a state, spending a good chunk of her life in a home where her foster father sexually abused her. Her three siblings grew up to also be addicts, to spend time in jails, to be bad parents. But Stephanie lived her life intentionally, striving to be unlike her mother in every way, to be in a stable marriage, to raise her children in a loving, warm home, and to be the picture of a success story. Now, Stephanie is the head of a small but successful college of interior design, mother of three, and proud homemaker. In some ways, Plymale's story is terrifying, depressing, uniquely awful and miserable. In other ways, it is all too common a story in the United States: for children to be in the same situations that Stephanie found herself in time and time again. In the epilogue to the book, Plymale reaffirms that she is indeed "an American daughter, in the most optimistic sense of the phrase [...] and [she] was an American nightmare." The book is told largely in present day, with occasional flashbacks describing her childhood memories. Stephanie is interviewing a prospective student for her interior design college when she gets a phone call from her mother. Her mother says that she has lung cancer and not much time to live. Despite all the trauma, abuse, and animosity, Stephanie still loves her mother - and she sees this as a now-or-never opportunity to mend the relationship one last time. Throughout the book, Stephanie visits her mother as her health worsens; she wants to learn what really happened in her mother's life. How did she become the person that she is? Stephanie learns the truly unspeakable histories of her mother's past, trauma that happened to her that could never be erased and affected her for the rest of her life. Stephanie also deals with her own demons, in smaller but just as important ways. Her failing marriage; her need to spend money to cultivate the sense of safety and security she never had growing up; dealing with the myriad ways that her mother affects her wellbeing. This book is wonderfully written. I admire Plymale for putting her story to paper, sharing what must be extraordinarily difficult stories of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse - her own and her mother's. I also admire her strength in overcoming the horrifying situations she came from and forge a path for herself. I admire her willingness to make amends with her mother, to try to understand the trauma that her mother experienced and forgive her for her wrongs. I admire that she shares her mistakes, that she doesn't try to paint herself as a saint, and she shows us that you can still make things right no matter how wrong they seem. I admire that she acknowledges her privilege in being able to overcome her upbringing, noting that there are many thousands of children who grow up in the same situation as her and are prevented from achieving their true potential because of systemic, racial, or political barriers. There is so much to admire here in such a simple, straightforward memoir of stories and memories. This book is a relatively quick read, although what you read will certainly sit with you for a long time. Although it's undoubtedly a sad subject, Plymale leaves you with a hopeful feeling, a feeling of resolution and optimism for the future. I highly recommend picking this up. Thank you to Greenleaf Book Group for the ARC via Netgalley.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    It has taken me awhile to sit and write about this book. Immediately after reading the book, my first thought was – wow this is a story with so many layers. Five stars! I wanted to think about the book, give it a week or two to see if still felt that way. I still think it’s a 5 star read. This book is similar to memoirs such as The Glass Castle, Educated, Etched in Sand, Girl Unbroken or Blackbird just to name a few. Stephanie Thornton Plymale overcame a horrific childhood filled with abuse and It has taken me awhile to sit and write about this book. Immediately after reading the book, my first thought was – wow this is a story with so many layers. Five stars! I wanted to think about the book, give it a week or two to see if still felt that way. I still think it’s a 5 star read. This book is similar to memoirs such as The Glass Castle, Educated, Etched in Sand, Girl Unbroken or Blackbird just to name a few. Stephanie Thornton Plymale overcame a horrific childhood filled with abuse and neglect to create a life with a loving partner, children and successful career as a designer. The focus of Stephanie’s memoir is her relationship as an adult with her mother while also going back in time to parts of her childhood. Her mother is mentally ill which plays a significant role in her chaotic childhood. There were periods of time where Stephanie tried to distance herself from her mother. Upon learning her mother was dying of cancer, Stephanie attempts to find out more about her mother and fill in the pieces that did not always make sense. As the story unfolds we learn about the incredibly traumatic events of Stephanie’s mother’s life. Both women are survivors. I definitely recommend reading An American Daughter. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diane Secchiaroli

    This memoir is outstanding. I didn’t realize it was a memoir until the very end. This is the story of mental illness, physical, sexual and mental abuse, loving relationships, perseverance, homelessness, and determination. Stephanie is a successful businesswoman, artist (interior design), and educator who has experienced all of the above yet has risen above all the damage. The book is eloquently written. Stephanie narrates the story in the present time with looks back at her and eventually her mo This memoir is outstanding. I didn’t realize it was a memoir until the very end. This is the story of mental illness, physical, sexual and mental abuse, loving relationships, perseverance, homelessness, and determination. Stephanie is a successful businesswoman, artist (interior design), and educator who has experienced all of the above yet has risen above all the damage. The book is eloquently written. Stephanie narrates the story in the present time with looks back at her and eventually her mother’s history. I can’t praise this memoir enough, best one I have ever read and I read a lot.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diane Secchiaroli

    This memoir is outstanding. I didn’t realize it was a memoir until the very end. This is a story of mental illness, physical, sexual, and mental abuse, loving relationships, perseverance, homelessness, and determination. Stephanie is a successful businesswoman, artist (interior design), and educator who has experienced all of the above yet risen above all the damage. This book is eloquently written. Stephanie narrates the story in the present with looks back at her and eventually her mother’s hi This memoir is outstanding. I didn’t realize it was a memoir until the very end. This is a story of mental illness, physical, sexual, and mental abuse, loving relationships, perseverance, homelessness, and determination. Stephanie is a successful businesswoman, artist (interior design), and educator who has experienced all of the above yet risen above all the damage. This book is eloquently written. Stephanie narrates the story in the present with looks back at her and eventually her mother’s history. I can’t praise this memoir enough, best one I have ever read and I read a lot. This was an advanced reader copy from the author and NetGalley.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Fish

    A haunting revelation into the world of foster care, this memoir will change you forever. Stephanie Thornton Plymale unveils the reality of her experience growing up in a dysfunctional home while somehow offering hope and validity to others that there can be new beginnings despite a horrific past. A heart-wrenching glimpse into the painful experience of so many children, the novel exposes the raw reality of abuse while also revealing the difference one caring adult can make with a simple act of A haunting revelation into the world of foster care, this memoir will change you forever. Stephanie Thornton Plymale unveils the reality of her experience growing up in a dysfunctional home while somehow offering hope and validity to others that there can be new beginnings despite a horrific past. A heart-wrenching glimpse into the painful experience of so many children, the novel exposes the raw reality of abuse while also revealing the difference one caring adult can make with a simple act of love. The author's life demonstrates that pain may shape you, but it does not define you. A must read for those who want to make a difference in the life of a child.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Carr

    Book Riot 2021: Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness First ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ of the year. For the "fans" of Tara Westover's Educated, though we can all agree we can't claim to be fans of such horror. It's so unfair how both Tara and Stephanie fell through the cracks over and over and over. May this story be the amplifier to the change that needs to happen in [USA] welfare, mental health, foster care, systems and beyond. Book Riot 2021: Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness First ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ of the year. For the "fans" of Tara Westover's Educated, though we can all agree we can't claim to be fans of such horror. It's so unfair how both Tara and Stephanie fell through the cracks over and over and over. May this story be the amplifier to the change that needs to happen in [USA] welfare, mental health, foster care, systems and beyond.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Carroll

    A very well written memoir of a horrific childhood. For someone to experience so much instability during her youth and make the choice to break the cycle with her own family shows the true strength and beauty of the human spirit. I cannot imagine being left at a beach with siblings while my mom goes off to work amongst other outings. To be torn apart from siblings growing up, becoming a ward of the state and put in the foster care system in a horrific sexually abusive situation is dreadful. For A very well written memoir of a horrific childhood. For someone to experience so much instability during her youth and make the choice to break the cycle with her own family shows the true strength and beauty of the human spirit. I cannot imagine being left at a beach with siblings while my mom goes off to work amongst other outings. To be torn apart from siblings growing up, becoming a ward of the state and put in the foster care system in a horrific sexually abusive situation is dreadful. For Stephanie to find happiness as an adult and create a safe, loving home for her children is a beautiful story of breaking the cycle. It is inconceivable to then learn what her mother also went through. If mental illness isn’t part of your DNA, her mother's experience surely could deliver trauma induced mental illness in some significant capacity, one would think. The events that transpired leading to Stephanie and her estranged mother finding each other again are truly amazing. This story for me is completely about forgiveness and how forgiveness can lead to healing. Her literary style gave way to an easy read for a very difficult subject.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Wow. Finished this in a day. Though in the same vein as Educated, American Daughter felt much more tragic due to the failure of so many larger systems in each of the character’s lives. Unbelievable, harrowing, saddening, disheartening.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    A memoir of a woman who suffers through horrific childhood experiences, including a neglectful and abusive mother, the tying up of her story and her journey exploring the roots of her family reads like a fairytale. However, I did find the book a bit confusing in terms of timeline. As Stephanie relives her childhood memories, she often does not detail her age and the sequence of experiences have no timeline. Some memories are particularly difficult to read and I may even add, are unnecessary. Her A memoir of a woman who suffers through horrific childhood experiences, including a neglectful and abusive mother, the tying up of her story and her journey exploring the roots of her family reads like a fairytale. However, I did find the book a bit confusing in terms of timeline. As Stephanie relives her childhood memories, she often does not detail her age and the sequence of experiences have no timeline. Some memories are particularly difficult to read and I may even add, are unnecessary. Her description of her foster "sister" playing with a cat was particularly uncomfortable and did not seem necessary for the memoir. I suppose writing this memoir was cathartic for Stephanie. The eventual drilling down into her mother's history and learned experiences that informed her adulthood was horrific. The terrible circumstances both women suffered through at the hands of malignant men reminds me of how far we have come and how much further we still need to go. The last few chapters of this painful memoir hold a hope for the reader. That some people can and do change. That forgiveness and restoration is possible. That the human spirit is capable of amazing things despite the worst circumstances that may seem to conspire against one.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    This is an excellent read about survival against overwhelming odds.

  29. 4 out of 5

    oohlalabooks

    Thank you to the author for sharing such intimate details of her childhood and upbringing. It’s a heart wrenching, powerful story with a beautiful understanding of what mental illness is, how actions and words can be traumatizing, and what a mother/daughter’s relationship should be and not. I haven’t felt emotionally compelled to a book in long awhile. (hugs)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan Phillips

    Our bookclub received American Daughter as free read from a galley match program. It was a good fit for our club....we have enjoyed similar titles (Glass Castle, Educated) in the past. Each time I read a book like this I am again reminded of the resilience of the human spirit but also wonder how some children are able to rise above a horrendous childhood while others are scarred so badly that they never truly recover to enjoy a normal (or even somewhat normal) adulthood. Stephanie was raised (int Our bookclub received American Daughter as free read from a galley match program. It was a good fit for our club....we have enjoyed similar titles (Glass Castle, Educated) in the past. Each time I read a book like this I am again reminded of the resilience of the human spirit but also wonder how some children are able to rise above a horrendous childhood while others are scarred so badly that they never truly recover to enjoy a normal (or even somewhat normal) adulthood. Stephanie was raised (intermittently) by Florence, a mentally ill mother. It isn't until well into the book that we discover the reason her mother has developed Dissociative Disorder (Multiple Personalities), Bipolar and Schizophrenia. It makes for a good read, but I would have liked to have know this earlier in the book as I might have had more empathy for Florence. It is easy to feel pain, sympathy, empathy for Stephanie, the sweet child who suffers from neglect, abuse, foster care and little to no health care. Looking back through each woman's history (Florence and Stephanie), in my opinion Stephanie suffers more trauma than her mother....yet Florence lives a life in/out of mental facilities with bizarre and disruptive episodes in between and Stephanie marries a wonderful man and has a very successful professional and family life. I'd like to believe that today's foster programs provide better oversight and what happens to Stephanie in the book wouldn't happen today. Sadly I am not sure that is necessarily the case. Oddly enough, two of her mothers transient lovers provide Stephanie with 2 tools that will serve her well....on guy helps her learn to read and another actually listens to her story of abuse at the hands of the foster parents. I wasn't a fan of the possibility of an affair with Owen....after Jim standing by her throughout their marriage and enduring Florence showing up on occasion and throwing Stephanie into a tailspin. I did understand her desire to have Mama Mae as her mom...she seemed to have the perfect life and she did love Stephanie. This was a quick read and kept me intersted the whole time. If you are a fan of this genre (surviving an unconventional/abusive/neglected childhood I can wholeheartedly recommend.

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