Ancestor Trouble is an intriguing historical detective memoir, though the answers Maud Newton is searching for are more nebulous and more intriguing than any “whodunnit” could be. The nicest thing you can say about her antecedents is that they are interesting. She is estranged from her father who is so racist he would paint out the faces of Black people in her books when she was a child. A certain level of mental illness persisted from generation to generation including religious mania in her mother and ninth great-grandmother. Definitely an interesting bunch. I am sure they were far more entertaining to read about than to live with.

I think Ancestor Trouble begins well enough. It’s fascinating, at first, to learn more about her family and see the reverberation of trauma over generations. I think, though, that she fails to recognize that if nature provides a bit of insanity, that may also translate into nurture, so she becomes a bit too much of a biological determinist for me. As the book progressed she got more and more into the mystical/spiritual side of things and it turned me off.

I received an e-galley of Ancestor Trouble from the publisher through NetGalley

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