Daughter, Undefined

Non-Fiction - Memoir
232 Pages
Reviewed on 06/22/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is a powerful and inspirational memoir, told in a voice that is unalloyed and filled with candor. It begins with a dramatic encounter between daughter and mother. It’s the moment of truth when the mother comes to inform Jackie that she was adopted, but Jackie breaks the news to her instead, startling her mother when she says: “I’ve always known. I just knew it.” The author takes readers on her journey in search of the truth, seeking her roots, and digging deeper into the secrets of her family. It’s a painful tale of betrayal, loss, and physical abuse, but it is also a story of healing, reconciliation, and love.

Jackie Ruchti’s memoir is the story of millions of people who feel unwanted and unloved, and the author communicates this emotion with rare clarity and honesty. The author has a great gift for storytelling and, apart from exploring her emotions and journey towards the truth, she takes readers into her family background, unveiling deep levels of hate and betrayal. While this memoir is inspiring from the point of view of the message, it is the author’s ability to capture raw emotions and to pull readers into her world that drew me. The writing is awesome and the dialogues are as realistic as they are instrumental in moving the story forward. The tone is strong and the voice clear and unwavering, and the first person narrative makes the story feel intimate. Daughter, Undefined is the kind of book that leaves no reader indifferent.

Deborah Lloyd

The memoir, Daughter, Undefined, written by Jackie Ruchti, is an unforgettable story. Jackie was 25 years old when she was told that she and her twin brother Jack were adopted. Her biological mother, sister to her adoptive mother, died a week after the twins were born. Although there were many times during her childhood and adolescence, when she wondered if Mom could really be her mother, knowing the truth was a shock. Jackie felt betrayed by her parents, as well as other family members. She had always had a difficult relationship with Mom, who was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. Moving from Evansville, Indiana to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho at the age of 14 added to the feelings of disconnectedness and isolation. Her early history of abuse and unhealthy relationships led to many difficult years. Jackie entered into an early marriage that failed; she also had subsequent failed marriages. But, she found inner strengths and eventually forged a good life.

The author shared many painful and horrific experiences. Although some readers may find these difficult to read, her descriptions of abuse and substance addictions are realistic. The writing style is easy to read, and the story flows through the decades of her life. Author Jackie Ruchti shares a disturbing, yet hope-filled journey in Daughter, Undefined. She is able to engage the reader from the first page, and this reader was cheering for her throughout her story. While reading this book, with an unforeseen ending, one can only think of the enduring power of the human spirit!

Gisela Dixon

Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is an autobiography written by Jackie on her own life, and especially dealing with issues stemming from her adoption as a child. The book takes us through Jackie’s life as a child to her present day in her own words. Jackie’s adoptive mother was her aunt, but she didn’t know this fact until she was much older, in her twenties. The story about her biological father is more complex with a lot more missing gaps. The book takes us through her distant, problem-filled relationship with the woman who raised her, her bond and relationship with her twin brother who was adopted along with her, her early experiences with her family and siblings, her relationships with men including her marriages, the domestic abuse and often physical violence that was a part of some of her relationships with men, and most of all, coming to terms with her own identity and discovering her true ancestry.

Daughter, Undefined is written simply and in plain language, and events have been described the way they happened in a straightforward way. When Jackie writes about feeling alienated from her family and feeling that no one is on her side, even her own twin brother who she is obviously close with, it is easy to empathize with her. This book certainly highlights the plight and the special challenges that adopted children and adults have to face, when they don’t know who they really are in terms of genetics or ancestry. So, I liked that Jackie has paid attention to this subject. It also shows how early experiences unfortunately shape a person’s acts and behaviors in later life, including putting up with physical abuse, etc. This is a book for people that enjoy reading autobiographies or memoirs.

Michelle Randall

Daughter, Undefined is the story of Jackie and her life as an adopted child. She was only told she was adopted when she was twenty-five, but she always kind of knew that something was off. The book is presented in different parts that represent different periods of Jackie's life. Jackie Ruchti does not sugarcoat anything in her life, but hers is definitely not the story of happily-ever-after. She delves into her early childhood and the things that made her feel different from the rest of the family, the clues that allowed her to realize that she was adopted long before she was told. She also delves into her family history, the type of men and women that raised her, from her parents to her aunts and uncles to her grandparents, moving on to her own marriages and children, showing how her upbringing influenced her own parenting abilities and choices, and finally concluding with the most recent years that saw other mysteries uncovered with the advent of ancestry.com and DNA testing.

As an author, Jackie Ruchti writes a story that you want to read, and although this is her story and what happened to her, as a reader you find yourself feeling for her, understanding some things that mirror your own life or someone you know. At the same time, the reader feels an empathy for her, that not all adoptions go this way, not all are perfect and not all leave the child with a better life. Daughter, Undefined is exactly what Jackie herself feels like, a daughter of some undefined person or place that she still isn't sure of. Although she has worked through a number of her issues in life, this book helps to close some of those chapters. This is a well written tale and I enjoyed reading it. It is definitely a cautionary tale of inter-family adoption, in my mind.

Ruffina Oserio

How would you feel if you woke up one morning to be told that the parents you have believed all along to be your biological parents aren’t your real parents? Jackie was given up in a secret adoption just after birth. She only learns the truth about her parents when she is already twenty-five years old and sets out on a journey to unravel her history and her roots. Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is a compelling memoir that explores the protagonist’s journey towards self-discovery and self-acceptance, a story that looks at emotional and physical abuse and the pain of betrayal. Can she accept who she is and can she shed the pain?

Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is ruthlessly honest, told in a voice that will draw the rawest of emotions from readers. But it is also a story of hope, the tale of a woman who decides that her past won’t define her, a woman who learns quickly to believe that the love she needs most is the one she has to give to herself. It’s a story of loss and readers will love the sincerity in this author’s voice. Although the memoir tells a difficult story, it lends a powerful voice to many people who feel unloved and whose sense of belonging has been hurt by rejection and betrayal.

The prose is polished, and the book is filled with dramatic and deeply emotional moments. Imagine the emotion when Jackie learns that her father and Jack’s was Eddie McNally and in a moment she can’t talk to him anymore? Daughter, Undefined will bring tears to your eyes, but it will make you root for this brave girl, obsessed with the truth about her heritage. Jackie Ruchti discusses themes of love, of loss, and family in a way that leaves the reader with a lot to ponder on. A really beautifully and inspiring memoir!

Ankita Shukla

Imagine that you were adopted but nobody told you; however, by the behavior of your mom (or the person whom you considered to be your birth mother), you always suspected that you were adopted. Hurtful, right? It's bad enough not knowing for twenty-five long years that you were adopted, but what's worse is suspecting that you are not living with your biological parents by observing their biased and unkind behavior towards you. Even imagining such a situation gives me goosebumps, but this had been Jackie Ruchti's reality until she turned twenty-five. In her memoir, Daughter, Undefined, she has shared how tough life has been for her. She and her twin brother, Jack, were both adopted; nevertheless, their parents' treatment was entirely different towards both of them. Jack and their real kids were treated kindly and with utmost care -- in short, exactly how kids should be treated -- whereas Jackie was treated like an outsider. Her mom used to beat her up, mostly, when no one was looking. The beatings were so bad that Jackie feared her mom up until she (Jackie) turned forty. Her parents used to lock her outside whenever they went out as if she would steal something from her own house. Her father, the one who had adopted her, was good to her until one day he thought she was embarrassed by him. Instead of clarifying the misunderstanding, he chose to stop being a good father to her. What I wonder is why didn't Jackie try to clear the air?

She led a really tough life. In her desperation to escape from her parents, she married her boyfriend, Vince, when she was only sixteen. Vince was an abusive guy -- both emotionally and physically. He cheated with other women after marriage. Needless to say, the marriage did not last. Jackie had other relationships too, but these partners failed to provide her the love that she deserved. Reading about the way these men treated her was absolutely devastating. I could not believe what I was reading. How can someone be so cruel to anyone? There were times when I wanted to wipe away Jackie's tears and comfort her, but there were also certain times when I wanted to shake her and ask her why she was going back to her abusive boyfriend/husband. When I read that her mom used to deny her basic needs, including, but not limited to, sanitary pads and underwear, it made my blood boil. What kind of woman would do that to a child, let alone her adopted daughter?

There are so many takeaways from this memoir for daughters, parents (especially adoptive ones), and women. Above all this is a story of survival. Jackie's braveness is praiseworthy. As she is primarily an emotional human being, I am sure she would not agree with being tagged as a courageous person, but she really is. She lost so many battles, but she did not stop fighting. Her "family" tried to push her out at every chance they got, even though she had done nothing wrong to any one of them, but she kept doing the right thing by all of them. Her sister stole Jackie's child and nobody tried to intervene; still, Jackie tried to patch things up with her. That's the kind of person she is. Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is a well-written memoir that reflects the emotional turmoil of an adopted person, irrespective of the age when they officially get to know about their adoption. If you are a reader that likes to read about and understand another person's life, then you would love this memoir.

Rabia Tanveer

Daughter, Undefined by Jackie Ruchti is the story of the author’s life from the moment she started to realize that she might be adopted. She was very young when she realized that she was different from the rest of her family and found out that she was adopted even before her family told her about it when she was 25 years old. Once she found out, she decided that she would unravel her family history to find out why was she adopted, why she was given up, who were her parents and where did she actually belong.

The author takes us step by step into her life and shows the raw and gritty parts of her life as well as the happy and the blissful parts. Although they loved her, there was always something missing about the way her family interacted with her and each other. Her upbringing might not have been the best, but she at least got to know what she shouldn’t do. But as it turns out, life is not easy, especially for a woman who is trying to find a place and people to belong to. She finds love, but can she sustain it? Can she truly believe in herself?

I really appreciated how the author held nothing back and kept her story raw and real. Jackie Ruchti brought her life onto these pages and made the reader relive it with her. I could feel her presence in every single word and feel her emotions bleed out on the pages. Sometimes it was hard to read on because of how real it all felt (because it is her life) and I had to pause, close the book for a moment, regain my composure and start reading again. Her choice of words, her pace and her narration brought tears to my eyes. She shares words of caution and warning for parents who want to adopt, or give up their children for adoption, because every action has consequences, which might not be good for the children. Very encouraging and heartbreaking at the same time.