Cover Image: Unearthing


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Member Reviews

I was very intrigued by the premise of this memoir. And the author’s writing was beautiful. But the style and organization of the memoir just didn’t work for me. I felt confused as to some of the points the author was making.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the gifted copy. Thank you for the gifted audiobook.

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A beautifully written book a story of family of a dna test a shocking result for the author the man she thought was her dad was not her birth father. As she starts her search for her real birth dad so much is revealed.This reads like a detective story a mystery to be answered.Mixed in with the search is the authors discovery of her love for plants that she inherited from her mom.This is a multi layered story full of heart wrenching moments and lyrical writing.#netgalley #scribner

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Akin to Shapiro's book Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, when the author decides to take a DNA test on a whim, she received results she never expected. The man who raised her is not her biological father, and she was conceived using a donor. Her mother is tight-lipped about the details of how it came to pass, and she embarks on an investigation to learn more about her genetic family.

She finds refuge in plants and visiting arboretums and writes extensively about the different plants she encounters. The writing in this book is undeniably well-done. The prose is lyrical without too much embellishment. But the story was trying to do too much and ended up more disjoined than cohesive.

DNF @ 25%

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Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC for me to read and review. This book was unique and quickly captured my interest. I think anyone who has taken a DNA test has wondered what they might discover about themselves and their family. This was original, touching, and slowly reveals one family secret after another.

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An unforgettable, moving memoir, infused with a suspense that propels the book forward, about the destructive power of secrets and the redemptive power of the truth.

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A DNA test can uproot one’s sense of self. For Kyo Maclear it meant that her recently passed father wasn’t who she thought, and her mother had secrets to share… or not. She finds herself investigating her own life. This memoir tracks the journey by the seasons and Maclear uses shared time in the garden to try and draw out her mother’s part in her story. This is a poetic exploration and restructuring of self over time as Maclear absorbs what truths she can find about her unknown parentage, her parent’s marriage, and her mother’s life.

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I love memoirs because truth is stranger than fiction and you never want to be in someone else's shoes.
Even with the gut punch of learning all she knows is not much at all: The author delivers the news poetically and with emotion. You know where and when she felt that betrayal and conflict.
Where we come from and who loves us is at the core of this mother-daughter telling. You will certainly get more out of it than you think going in.

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A book with a lot of potential, but for various reasons, I had a hard time getting into it. I thought maybe it was the format so I picked up the ARC the publisher sent to me, but I still failed to really care about the story. It's never a good sign when you find that you have to force yourself to pick up a book to read.

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I enjoyed the main focus of Maclear's memoir - after her father's death, she researched her genealogy and discovered that the man who raised her was not her biological father. This leads to complications in her relationship with her mother, who also begins developing health problems that impede her search for facts and answers.

That said, despite the title, I did not anticipate Maclear focusing as much as she did on plants and gardening. At times, she shares facts and information, but at other times she is weaving metaphors, some of which feel like great stretches while others do feel somewhat apt. She also loses focus at points, talking about the pandemic and other tangentially related topics. While a strong writer, Maclear doesn't often express a lot of emotion despite the great upset and turmoil she endured as a middle aged woman with children of her own. I sometimes felt disconnected to the emotional aspects of her story, especially when she fixated on plants and other factual topics.

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The synopsis of this memoir completely intrigued me and I looked forward to following along the author's journey of unearthing the secrets from her past and solving the mystery of her DNA. While the book did technically do that, I'm not sure the way it was presented worked for me.

The writing was lyrical and you can tell the author is a strong and gifted writer. However, I picked up a book that I thought was going to be a faster-paced family mystery, and I was interested to see what the author did with the information she learned.

What it ended up being was a whole lot of focus on two things: plants and the author's mother. For obvious reasons, I understand why her mother was central to the story. But a lot of the focus was on her mother in the present day, and it became overly repetitive at times, not really going anywhere. I understand the author's anguish and frustration, but it just felt like there were many instances where the author visited her mother and got absolutely no new information, so it seemed strange to repeatedly give the readers very detailed descriptions of these meetings.

As far as the plants go, I do understand how plants played a role in the author's life, but I don't know that it made sense for plants to have such a starring role in this book. It was....a lot. I am not someone that ever skims when I read - I read every word, every sentence, every page. But I found myself skimming through parts of this book more than once, and it was always when it went deep into the plant topics. The plants had a lot to do with the relationship between the author and her mother, but nothing to do with the mystery of the author's DNA. I can understand how plants acted as a kind of therapy to get the author through many of the emotions of learning her history, but that could've been acknowledged in a much more concise way.

I know it's funny to say that the book was written well while I also saying I was so bored by some parts that I just skimmed over them, but that really is the case with this book. The author writes really well. But it almost felt as if this either should've been two different books, or that the book is being marketed incorrectly. I think the synopsis should be reworked in such a way that people understand there is a very heavy focus on plants in this book, and that would set their expectations more accurately before they begin reading.

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the arc in exchange for my honest review.

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i loved maclear's lyrical prose and narrative in her memoir. however, i personally sometimes found it to be a bit too flowery and heavy alongside the content. i did love how nature was woven in and the way maclear explored grief was truly beautiful.

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While I will say the author is a gifted writer, and I enjoyed reading the family part of this book, I did not enjoy all the interweaving of plants and nature. I am sure there is a correlation in the authors view, or why else would she write these two things together. It was just not for me and I found myself skimming the plant parts I. Search of the human story.

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UNEARTHING by Kyo Maclear is a memoir, "A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets." I requested this title because it was recommended for fans of Dani Shapiro and I had thought that her Signal Fires was fantastic. UNEARTHING is indeed lyrical and well-written, but I found it rather disturbing. Maclear, who is half Japanese cleverly relates her story through 24 sections, named for the twenty-four "sekki" or small seasons to which the Japanese refer. It certainly was a journey and a time up upheaval after she found out that the man she considered her father was not biologically related to her. Sadly, her mother seemed disinclined to share information or to help guide Maclear to a better understanding. That was uncomfortable, but the section that speculates that her mother may have been drugged and inseminated without consent is indeed triggering. I empathize with Maclear who writes, "What about those still in limbo? Many people were still searching years later, wandering geological hallways. Some had made peace with the perpetual search, as though it were a game or riddle that did not need an end. Others found the endlessness to be a nightmare." UNEARTHING is an extremely self-reflective piece which may work for some readers, but did not for me. 2.5 stars

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This is a literary memoir grafted upon botanical themes of growth, seeding, seasons of harvest. Kyo begins with a desire to understand her complicated parents' history and her mixed race identity. (Kyo is part Japanese, part white, and wholly British.) Kyo struggles with a reticent parent and the death of another.

As a result of a DNA test and through a careful pruning away of her parents' past and the debris of their romance, Kyo uncovers an even more complicated undergrowth of family and connections. Their memoir throws into question the meanings of belonging, the bonds of love and how far those far are biological.

In some chapters Kyo refers to a woman whom her mother was friends with -- perhaps Yoko Ono, though Kyo does not state this outright -- and with whom they shared the connection of a child. The focal point here is not celebrity, but the degree to which an individual is a mother or a child to another.

The memoir also addresses the question of normativity and the ways in which women -- especially Asian women -- are captured and categorized in a Euro-White-centric society.

Maclear writes like a poet. The memoir reads like a poem, a long and winding one. It is lyrical in its delivery as well as in its perspective; the vines of connection are sinuous and undulating and tangled.

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3.5 stars.

"What is grief, if not the act of persisting and reconstituting oneself? What is its difficulty, if not the pressure to appear, once more, fully formed?"

To know more about her ancestors, Kyo decides to take a DNA test after her father dies from dementia. To her surprise, Kyo discovers that the man she has known as her father her entire life is not actually her biological one. In her memoir, Kyo recounts her journey discovering who her biological father is and who she truly is, unearthing family secrets in the process.

Even with its flaws, Kyo Maclear’s memoir is a fascinating story about self discovery, embracing your roots and understand life and how unpredictable could be. With a masterful poetical language full of sensitivity, the author speaks about race, religion, cultural diversities, grief, dealing with losing someone and mental health. What a discovery for me having the opportunity to read Ms. Maclear’s story.


• ARC given by Simon & Shuster/Scribner via Netgalley. Thanks for your trust.

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A gorgeous book about truth, lies, love, grace, and grief and how one woman has to reconcile all of those emotions almost all at once and how she uses gardening to help her understand what was going on in her life [I cannot imagine going from being an only child to having 5 other siblings as an adult], and to deal with all she has learned about her mother while also navigating her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis [which was particularly difficult for me to read, but also helped me tremendously; it always helps when you realize others struggle in being a caregiver like you do and that you are not alone].

Listening to the author unwrap her story, both the parts she already knew and the parts she was learning [and trying to fold them in together into something cohesive that she could move forward with], in her soft, comforting voice, was so lovely and made the book even more enjoyable for me. I went into this book not really knowing what it was about, and was nervous when I realized it was going to be partly about something that I am myself fully enmeshed in [plus gardening, which I am a real failure at - plants run screaming from me. Seriously. ;-) ], but ended up really loving this and am so glad that I was able to read it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Kyo Maclear, and Scribner for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you Netgalley and publisher for this ARC!

This is an intimate story about Kyo Maclear's relationship with her parents after finding out that her (now dead) father isn't actually her biological father - with the twists and turns that follow, this book was poignant and written beautiful. Great read!

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I started out reading this book and found the writing to be exquisite and so beautiful. I'd stop and re-read a sentence and was so impressed. But it began to be a smorgasboard and I was getting full. I felt like this really could be two books and while I greatly enjoyed the first part of it, it bogs down after that and seems repetitive and overly caught up in emotional baggage. Of course that's just me. Others may appreciate the great details of her feelings and where they took her. And then there's the plant life. Vegetation makes me sneeze and break out in rashes. But I began to get a better sense of gardening and gardens and I gained a bit more of an appreciation for plant life. Come to think of it, this could really be three books: 1) Finding my roots, 2) Dealing with dementia and death of ones' parents, and 3) All about gardens.

Maclear uses the old Japanese calendar to pace her book. It seems to be popular to incorporate this calendar these days into life, writing, etc. But Maclear had the cultural background to understand it and the language to appreciate it. It works well for pacing the reader and giving us manageable chunks to digest.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. You could say that there is something for every reader in it.

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3.5 stars. Thank you to Net Galley and Scribner for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. The book begins when the the author's father has passed away from dementia and she decides to take a DNA test to learn more about her ancestry. When her results come back, she realizes that her father was not her biological father. She contemplates what to do and ends up asking her mother who at first avoids the conversation. She then goes on a journey of unearthing the secrets both her father and mother kept. The story is told in a beautiful manner, interweaving the role of nature in our lives - in a philosophical way to every day occurrences - another way the author unearths. As her mother is Japanese and this is part of the author's history, she titles the chapters based on the Japanese idea and words used for the different seasons of the year. I very much enjoyed the story and writing for most of the book but the storytelling seemed to lose its way or focus for the last third. I didn't really understand where the author was going or why she was delving into certain topics.

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Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for the free review copy. I am a huge fan of memoir, and especially memoir that explore turbulent family relationships, nature and art. Kyo Maclear's memoir is exactly the type of memoir I love to absolutely devour.. The hook of this book seems relatively simple: a woman takes a DNA test to learn more about her beloved father after his passing only to learn he isn't her biological father at all, and takes off on a an emotionally risky quest to unearth the secrets of her family, particular from her mother. But what Kyo Maclear presents is a winding, introspective tome that raises fascinating questions about memory, heritage, and what it means to love and tell stories. I found so many of the anecdotes in this book fascinating and found myself on the edge of my seat to see what would happen or be revealed next. Easily one of the most well-written and engaging memoirs I have read in a while.

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