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Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, a Memoir

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  407 ratings  ·  69 reviews
The first book by the author of the New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife is a powerful and haunting memoir of the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children. In the early 70s, after being abandoned by both parents, the girls were made wards of the Fresno County, California court and spent the next 14 years-in a series of adoptive homes. The dislocations, co ...more
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Published September 26th 2009 by Back Bay Books (first published March 2003)
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I couldn't disagree more with the readers who gave this book a low rating because it was "flat". This is real life, this isn't a soap opera. You're talking about a girl who spent most of her childhood being shuffled from one house to the next. Of course she's detached from the story, it's a defense mechanism. Obviously those readers don't understand the attachment issues foster kids have, especially the ones that age out of the system.

As a reader, I myself felt detached from the story. While I
Aug 01, 2008 Antoinette rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir lovers, social workers, people with mama drama, foster parents, foster chilldren
Shelves: memoirs
This book is lacking a lot, but it is a worthy read because it is a good story. I like to read stories about foster care victims, because I aspire to being a foster parent. I can certainly learn from the coldness of her foster parents. What makes the book only so-so is the author's lack of insight. For a self-proclaimed poet she lacks depth. Description worth reading is lacking, characters are flat, locations are fuzzy, time is rigid. Not well written, not a fantastic story, not reflective enoug ...more
"For 14 years, Paula McLain endured a chaotic life of impermanence..." (book jacket)

"...nearly 15 years of shuttling between foster homes like a water bug between floating leaves and garbage." (p. 229) But what's the first part of that sentence? "I was 19 years old when I left the Lindberghs, ending nearly 11 years with them."

How is 11 years with one foster family, through to age 19, "a chaotic life of impermanence" or "15 years of shuttling"?

Not quite what it's made out to be at all. Paula and
Megan Graff
The Kindle edition of this book is full of odd typos. Do they scan books and use text recognition software to create e-books? A few examples: 1'11 for I'll and a character named Hilde's name has come up both as Nude and Rude.
Mar 18, 2008 Suible rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suible by: NYT piece by author
Interesting book. The book allows a glimpse into a different kind of life - growing up in the foster care system even though both parents are living. The hardest part of the book for me was not some of the fairly expected bad things - sexual abuse, ostracization, etc., but the almost off-hand manner in which they are handled in the book.

I don't think the book was all that well edited - it seemed to skip around so much as to be somewhat confusing. Also, quite a few of the characters seemed not fl
I really loved learning about Paula McLain's life growing up as a foster child. It was difficult to read about her feeling of never belonging to anyone. I loved her stories, and I appreciated her beautiful way of expressing how she felt about her life.

The Paris Wife remains one of my all time favorite books, and reading about Paula's life made me love her even more. I checked this book out in anticipation of the release of her newest book, Circling the Sun, which I can't wait to get my hands on
I liked reading about the inside look of growing up as a foster child. Mostly though, I liked how it was infused with growing up in the 70's. I could really feel it.

And I liked the sweet granny that provided kindness, stability and an old mint green house once a month to the sisters. I've always wanted an old mint house that a grandma has lived in - those are the ones I stare longingly at the most.
Carolyn Somerville
I think this book might be my new Rusholme Road. The book against which all others are compared. It read like fiction and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't. It was so well written, not too wordy but not too plain, just right.
nothing fantastic, kind of a dull memoir in somewhat of an interesting life. some good little tales scattered here and there. you do sympathize with how pathetic the author/main character makes herself out to be.
I found the story fascinating & the writing style easy to follow, however I found the ending was a little sloppy & quick.
I registered a book at!

Paula and her two younger sisters were abandoned by both parents in 1965. They were placed in a series of foster homes, ending in one that lasted several years. Throughout that time Paula hoped that her mother would be able to take them back, but mostly she rode with the time. She adapted to the situation.

The memoir is vivid and does not ask for sympathy. It is simply a recording of what it was like. Naturally,
Tobi Evangelisti
Interesting topic of the foster care system but not overly well written:)
Jane Carlsen
Dysfunction in families is common, but I am impressed with this author for having overcome being moved from one "situation" to another having little solidarity. Her great fortune was that she was able to stay together with her sisters. Foster homes are a sad, but necessary, alternative to orphanages which is where I expect these girls would have grown up with such careless parents. Children have no control of their parents, but as adults they choose to rise above or be mowed over by childhood ci ...more
An unforgettable memoir about “forgotten” children

Candid, painful, sobering, yet hopeful, Like Family: Growing Up In Other People’s Houses is McLain’s compelling childhood memoir that spans a 15-year period in western America in the 1970-80’s.

Abandoned by their parents at a young age, McLain and her two sisters’ lives as foster children begin in chaos. Displaced, not unlike refugees in their own country, they are shuffled from foster home to foster home. With little time to settle in or form cl
Kathryn Bashaar
This is the author's memoir of growing up as a foster child. It's kind of like a car wreck: horrifying, but you can't look away. I just gobbled this book up. I grew up in the same era as the author, so the things kids did in that era and the way people lived, felt very familiar to me. I wondered a lot of things. Why couldn't the grandmother have taken care of the 3 girls, with some help? I'm in my 50s and do NOT want to go through raising kids again, but I would cut off my arm before I'd let my ...more
In this memoir, the author just tells her story like it was, without a lot of deep thought, until the end.

This is one of those books where no part of it just drags on and on. She tells a story and then moves on to another.

It always breaks my heart to read about mothers who throw their children to the wolves, which is what this author's mother did. And her father, and other family members. As much as I almost hate to admit it, I was glad to see that Paula didn't just forgive her mother as easil
I read about this book in a magazine and have a personal interest in the foster care system and the experience of foster children. It is the memoir of McLain who spent about 10 years in the foster care system with her 2 sisters. As with most foster care experiences, they were in several different homes...some for months and others for years...some with caring families and others with abusive or negligent families. Considering my interest level in this book when I started, I was a bit disappointe ...more
This book just falls flat. Yes, it takes a lot to recall one's childhood being shuttled from foster home to foster home. However, because the author has her Master's in poetry, I expected the book to be well-written, cohesive, and insightful. It is none of those things. McLain just tells what happened in little snippets that sometimes aren't chronological. She introduces characters and scenes that don't connect to anything else she has written. And, ever the poet, she ends every section with som ...more
Elizabeth Ray
This is a hard book to review because it's someone's life story. This book was surprisingly unemotional considering the things the author experienced. It may be a protective mechanism. I did think it was odd and confusing at times the order she told the story. The weirdest when she revealed something traumatic that had been going on in one of the homes and it was not until the very end of her story with them. It completed changed the way I had been viewing those characters. I don't know why she ...more
Paula McLain and her sisters Theresa and Penny were pretty lucky for foster children. This memoir details their lives with 4 different foster families, some situations being better than others. Sadly, there was some molestation and neglect. But there was also some happiness and stability. For one thing, all three sisters were always kept together. They were never divided up. They did maintain some contact with their grandmother and cousins. They stayed 11 years in their last foster home until th ...more
Leslie Andersen
Paula McLain tells the story of her childhood in foster homes with her two sisters. She is a wonderful writer, and reading this was a pleasure, although much of the book is sad--as would be expected.
Marinda Mullis
This book made me very grateful for the home situation I grew up in with two loving parents. When I got to the end of this book, I closed the book, and I teared up thinking that she will never be able to just "get over" all the terrible things she went through and knowing that she will never find closure because her past is still very much her present. Even if she ever asked her mom all those questions that were left unanswered, it wouldn't make a difference. There's no answer her mom could give ...more
Jenna Anderson
Many times memoirs take on a heavy, philosophical tone. They are so insightful that we lose the fresh, honest conveying memories. The story may be about a young child, but the writing is too mature or preachy - not in this book. Paula's young voice, fears, and dreams came through in a simple, childlike voice. The little things mattered - bedspreads, a tone of voice, hugs or lack of. The littlest of things matter most to children. For some, they mean everything - life, love, who they are.

This is
Almost four stars. The story of three sisters whose mother and father manage to abandon them. Good not great.
I really enjoy Paula's writing. She describes things in such a beautiful way. The book is not at all warm or happy and I think she captures foster care/homes in the way most people think about them. The cool thing about this book is how she describes her reaction to growing up in foster care. It's something not people experience and she does a good job of explaining how it impacts her point of view.
Jackie Wolfred
Heart warming and authentic memoir of Paula McLain, author of the best-selling novel "The Paris Wife".
Very interesting look into the life of a foster child
A beautiful book about a sad kind of childhood that is going on all around us, every day, although usually we aren't aware of it when we see the children living it. McLain delivers a matter-of-fact exposition of what it's like to never really have a place to BE, to be valued or not based on others' convenience, tolerance, and stunted needs.

Who should read this book: teachers, social workers, foster parents, loved ones of former foster children, and fans of childhood memoir.
I am so glad I read this book. In many ways it mirrored my own life story. But the insights I gained as a reflection of this mirror are healthy ones. I cried at the beginning, bracing myself for what I felt was probably coming. I found the first 3/4 of the book to be totally absorbing.

The 'Reading Group Guide' is not to be missed--particularily the conversation with the author. I cried again, with gratitude that -- through thick and thin --I have my sisters!
Love this book. Beautifully written, almost poetic at times. She doesn't flinch from the truth but doesn't dwell on the negative, either. Paula and her 2 sisters grew up in foster care after their mother abandoned them at their grandmother's. It's not an eye-opener....we've all read and heard abt the foster care system with its inherent problems. But Paula gives it a personal feel........because the book is a memoir. an unforgettable one, at that.
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Paula McLain has published two collections of poetry, “Less of Her” and “Stumble, Gorgeous,” both from New Issues Poetry Press, and a memoir entitled “Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses” (Little, Brown, 2003). “A Ticket to Ride,” is her debut novel from Ecco/HarperCollins. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and has since been a writer-in-residence ...more
More about Paula McLain...
The Paris Wife Circling the Sun A Ticket to Ride Stumble, Gorgeous Less of Her: Poems

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