“Book Review: The Bond”
Reviewed by Joseph Haeger
Growing up under stressful and precarious circumstances led this memoirist to find comfort in an unexpected family.
Family comes in all different shapes and sizes. Moving from the life of a latchkey kid to an orphanage to a member of a foster family, A.M. Grotticelli experienced the concept of family in a number of ways.
His foster parents, the Nelsons, had two biological children and a whole swath of foster children. Revisiting his formative years in The Bond, Grotticelli dives into the Nelson’s mistreatment of their kids, while also finding comfort in the kinship of his siblings.
Grotticelli was given up when he was just a kid. His mom was in and out of the house without much desire to parent and his dad was too busy being a mean drunk to pick up any of the slack. And so, he and his siblings were sent to an orphanage. From there, Grotticelli had to adapt to an environment that was under more supervision than he was used to, while also being on the receiving end of some pretty terrible abuse from both the staff and other kids.
Eventually he was sent to a foster home, and it felt like a golden ticket. The family seemed nice enough on the surface, but it becomes clear that they weren’t necessarily approaching foster care from the most benevolent position. They were doing it for the money.
And what happens when this pieced-together family grows into adulthood? Well, the kids don’t need the parents as much, which results in the Nelsons cutting off their love to their foster kids.
The way Grotticelli writes is like he’s talking to a good friend. The Bond isn’t told in a strict linear structure—he treats the chapters more like pockets of exploration, looking into elements of his past. He talks about how the foster family treated holidays in one chapter and how they all worked and did chores in another. These chapters are loose and conversational, feeling a lot like I was grabbing a drink with someone who has a fascinating story to tell. The longer we listen, the more complete his home life comes into focus. The voice and tone shine.
There’s a chapter at the end with short histories of all the other kids. This section feels a bit like an afterthought, as if we acknowledge their necessity too late. Throughout the memoir I found myself mixing up the different kids and having difficulty knowing who was who. An earlier detailed breakdown would have rounded out the characters and showed us where they fit into the bigger story.
From the start, A.M. Grotticelli had a rough childhood. The author is up front and honest about his fraught relationship with his foster parents, but there are moments where they don’t feel quite as bad as they are presented. Then we reach adulthood, and it gets much clearer. They just stopped loving him, which helps me see the damage of if they ever loved him—or any of the kids—to begin with. It’s wild that these two foster parents used these children to bolster their own feelings of need, and then cast them aside the moment they gained a natural independence.
This is an emotionally effective book, unfolding through an atypical narrative. It’s impressive how Grotticelli balances being friendly, funny, and serious while telling an uncomfortable and difficult story; and that’s only one of the reasons why this book works, why it can make a deep and lasting connection on its readers.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir
Print Length: 234 pages
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