Testing the Bond: What's family without shared identity?

By Diane Cole

March/April 2013

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
By Andrew Solomon
Scribner. 962 pp.
ISBN: 9780743236713
Purchase this book on Amazon

How do parents and their children come to identify with each other as family when, as a result of nature, nurture, or both, they differ so vastly that they wonder how they ever came to be related? If we knew, we wouldn’t need Andrew Solomon’s recently published book, the widely acclaimed, ambitiously intentioned, and unevenly successful Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.

It’s ironic, given the book’s title, that Far from the Tree actually falls close to the mark of Solomon’s previous book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. Each attempts to chart, in one massive volume, the complex workings of entire worlds of pain and confusion. Moreover, Solomon’s familiarity with each of these worlds derives from personal experience.

His decades-long struggle with depression lent urgency to The Noonday Demon: he had a real stake in trying to uncover the origins of the disease and the efficacy of different treatment options. For Far from the Tree, his point of departure isn’t psychiatric illness, but…

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