One Man's Obsession with Finding His Origins Through DNA Testing
On Sale: May 19, 2009
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Every family has a secret. But what if that secret makes you
question your own place in the family? Mixing equal parts
memoir, detective story, and popular-science narrative, this
is the emotionally charged account of one man’s quest to
find out the truth about his genetic heritage–and confront
the agonizing possibility of having to redefine the first
fifty years of his life.
Shortly before his father’s death, Lennard Davis received a
cryptic call from his uncle Abie, who said he had a secret
he wanted to tell him one day. When finally revealed, the
secret–that Abie himself was Davis’s father, via donor
insemination–seemed too preposterous to be true. Born in
1949, Davis wasn’t even sure that artificial insemination
had existed at that time. Moreover, his uncle was mentally
unstable, an unreliable witness to the past. Davis tried to
erase the whole episode from his mind.
Yet it wouldn’t disappear. As a child, Davis had always felt
oddly out of place in his family. Could Abie’s story
explain why? Over time Davis’s doubts grew into an
obsession, until finally, some twenty years after Abie’s
phone call, he launched an investigation–one that took him
to DNA labs and online genealogical research sites, and into
intense conversations with family members whose connection
to him he had begun to doubt.
At once an absorbing personal journey and a fascinating
intellectual foray into the little-known history of
artificial insemination and our millennia-long attempt to
understand the mysteries of sexual reproduction, Davis’s
quest challenges us to ask who we are beyond a mere
collection of genes. And as the possibility of finding the
truth comes tantalizingly within reach, with Davis facing
the agonizing possibility of having to reenvision his early
years and his relationships with those closest to him, his
search turns into a moving meditation on the nature of
family bonds, as well as a new understanding of the
significance of the swarms of chemicals that are the
blueprints for our very human selves.
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