The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham

Juggler's childrenWow. I loved The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham.I must say that the reason this book is so great is because Abraham is a wonderful storyteller. Normally, listening to someone go on about the ins and outs of their family history can be a little on the dull side – especially when it gets into DNA testing. But someone how Abraham has managed to weave the most captivating story out of this. Her turns of phrase are remarkable and with every page and chapter of this genealogical caper I wanted to read more. When it came to explaining the intricacies of DNA testing, Abraham makes that interesting and understandable.

Families can be as twisted as the genetic strands that bind them, old as time, born of chance and random couplings.

The story was born out of a search for identity. Abraham is of multi-ethnic background, leading people to ask “so where are you from?”. The answers of Mississauga and England did not seem satisfactory to those who saw a darkish skinned girl with unusual features, even though it was the truth. As a result Abraham looked back to her ancestors – a juggler, a sea captain, a slave owner? – to get some answers. The journey into her ancestry took her to India, China and Jamaica. As the paper trail wore thin advances in DNA testing moved Abraham in new and sometimes unexpected directions.

Who would like this book? I was drawn to this book because of Retreat by RandomHouse‘s description of  as a cross between The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. That, of course, is just another way of saying that it is a well researched and enticingly told story that has science as it’s backbone. I would also recommend it to anyone interested in genealogy. On more than one occasion it also made me think of What Disturbs Our Blood by James Fitzgerald, which I also really enjoyed.  But really, it is a well written yarn that will appeal to just about anyone.