In his debut memoir, Already Home, adopted son, Howard Frederick Ibach, invites readers on an inspiring journey that ultimately debunks the widespread notion that adoption is an automatic ticket to suffering and abandonment.
As the son of a physician father and a scientist mother, Howard rarely questions his status as adoptee in a family that includes both an adoptive sister and his parents’ biological children. That’s because growing up in early 1960s-Wisconsin, he was afforded a life of love, security, and boyhood adventures.
But in 2015 at the age of fifty-eight, his story takes an unexpected turn. Amid the turmoil of a faltering relationship, he stumbles upon research that concludes most, if not all, adoptees will experience trauma.
Two years later, Ibach decides to trace his biological lineage. Armed with his adoption records, he learns the identity of his birth mother and unravels the captivating and dramatic narrative of his biological family.
Howard's discovery reveals not just the joy of his newfound connections, but also reaffirms the love he has for the family who adopted him.
Already Home is an inspiring memoir that disputes presumptive ideas about adoption and reveals what it really means to have a family…or two.
Plot/Idea: Kicking off with a masterful prologue, this memoir is highly emotive, drawing readers into the author's personal experiences with adoption. While detours can occasionally take the work off-track, the overall reading experience is gratifying.
Prose: The author is a skilled writer with a knack for creating tension and crafting an emotional connection between reader and narrative.
Originality: While there are many adoption memoirs available on the market, the author's writing skills and emotional honesty make Already Home standout. The reader appreciates how the author integrates opposing theories on adoption, though some of this focus may strike readers as excessive.
Character/Execution: The author is a skilled storyteller and writer who allows readers to enter his world – and journey to find his biological family – with ease. The author's interactions with his newfound sister Susan, with whom he shares a special bond, is particularly moving. As mentioned above, some degree of organizational streamlining may benefit the work.
Blurb: An emotive memoir recounting the author's search for his birth family, Already Home tells the stories of family lost and family found.
Date Submitted: December 04, 2023
Ibach’s memoir is broadly divided into two themes: stories from his childhood and his journey to discover his birth family, plus his life and relationship with them. Ibach paints a moving picture of life as a “happy, pampered, privileged child” with his adoptive parents and three siblings in Milwaukee, roughhousing, exploring the ravines of Lake Michigan, and meeting Santa Claus during the holiday season. This deeply personal tale offers a window into 20th century America as Ibach reflects on the societal treatment of unwanted pregnancies before the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, the perception of adoption and adoptees, and the experience of bisexuality in a culture that marginalized anyone not conforming to heteronormativity.
When Ibach meets his birth family in South Carolina he is welcomed into the clan with love, but this experience also reaffirms his love for his own family—the ones who “chose” him. His story touchingly challenges orthodoxies while celebrating love as it’s lived. Readers looking to cry happy tears will find solace in this emotionally charged memoir.
Takeaway: Touching story of adoption, love, and challenging orthodoxies.
Comparable Titles: Brad Livingood’s Surrounding Sparky, Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
Pushing back against the commonly accepted belief that adopted kids grow into emotionally scarred adults because of the “primal wound” of early separation, Howard Frederick Ibach offers an honest, in-depth, and propulsive memoir as gripping as a novel. A successful advertising copywriter, 57-year-old Ibach was living in Los Angeles in 2015, seeing a therapist to salvage a tumultuous romantic relationship, when he was introduced to The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, a book by psychotherapist and adoption specialist Nancy Newton Verrier. Ibach disputed Verrier's argument that adopted children were damaged, specifically objecting to the psychotherapist’s "six venomous words...you were the victim of trauma." The first of four children (the two eldest adopted), Ibach remembered "a childhood I had thought was happy—idyllic, in fact" in Bayside, Wisconsin, and had never wanted to seek out his birth mother.Yet driven by curiosity, in 2017 he accessed his adoption records and discovered his birth mother was Irene Small of Mullins, South Carolina, who came to Wisconsin to give birth after a series of disastrous, life-changing events. After that news came many head-spinning revelations about his biological parents, siblings and their family secrets. Short chapters pull readers along. Ibach is clever about recreating the past in scene and dialogue, including an inventive opening that begins with the man whose drunk driving killed his birth mother’s husband, which made her a vulnerable young widow who succumbed to the attentions of her husband’s friend and became pregnant. Ibach's candor at his circumstances—a bisexual, urban Californian reconnecting with Southern blood relatives very different in lifestyle, religion, and political beliefs—exposes the swirl of emotions at facing one's unexpected family history. Ibach's style leans toward the literary; he unflinchingly peels back layers of introspection and self-doubt as he undertakes his twisting, emotional journey. This crisply paced narrative mixes cliffhangers with carefully-crafted reflective passages and comes to a conclusive, satisfying end. Already Home is a must-read for anyone who has experienced adoption first-hand.
"Already Home" by Howard Ibach delves into the quest for belonging in a world eager to label and define us. Comfortable with his adopted family, Ibach's life is disrupted by a cascade of well-meaning, yet damaging advice. As he dives into the essence of belonging, he encounters a movement where genuine family ties are dismissed by a society obsessed with sensationalizing sorrow. Amidst the noise, he discovers a transformative perspective—a voice that challenges both him and readers to reevaluate the core of their identities, and the truth about their families. For those tired of alarmist narratives, and those seeking comfort in their personal histories, "Already Home" proposes a welcome epiphany: perhaps home was never truly lost. A must-read for those on the path to self-discovery — and anyone who yearns for family.