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The Bond
The Bond traces the journey of an unusual family made up of three unrelated sets of children from different backgrounds all raised in the same foster-care house. We were a collection of eight kids, all from broken homes, who were searching for the stability of an intact family. Unfortunately, that foster family imploded as well, but through sheer will and desperation we kids learned to pick up the pieces and form a lasting connection of our own. I came to the Nelson house in August 1969, from an orphanage, when I was nine years old. When I turned eighteen, I was told to leave the family I had come to love. The state child-care payments had stopped and I was cast out. Then, in succession, we all were. Getting emotionally attached to the Nelsons was hard, but getting unattached was devastating. We were very different people who would never have met in another life. Yet today we are a family, as tight as any blood relations.
This gritty memoir of being one of eight foster children in an abusive home chronicles the ways that difficult circumstances can form tight-knit families of choice. Grotticelli and his four siblings became wards of New York State when their mother was dying of breast cancer and their alcoholic father proved unable and unwilling to care for them. Grotticelli, with his siblings Rose Ann and Charles, entered St. Michael’s Orphanage, a grim and Dickensian Catholic charity. After two years with the ironically named Sisters of Mercy, they were moved to Nina and Gilbert Nelson’s Long Island home. Although the Nelsons repeatedly stated their goal of “saving these kids from the streets,” what they truly desired from their eight foster children—three sets of siblings and a singleton—was free labor and monthly checks from the state. For years, the Nelsons dangled adoption in front of the love-starved foster children, offering security in an unstable world, while inflicting physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The children endured a years-long struggle to learn what a family truly is.

Grotticelli’s unsparing honesty about his birth and foster families—including an uncle’s mob connections, his birth mother’s petty crimes, and the Nelsons’ blatant favoritism of their biological children and tolerance of their adult son sexually abusing their teenage foster daughter—will make readers wince and keep them marveling at the indomitability of these children. That the foster siblings were able to forge familial bonds with each other is extraordinary.

Although Grotticelli’s anecdotes frequently meander and his lengthy descriptions of people interrupt the flow of his story, the raw facts of how eight children came to live in the large home in Long Island makes for a compelling read. Grotticelli’s voice is compulsively readable, wry and friendly despite the horrors he describes, and full of affection for his chosen family. Even into adulthood, the scars of life with the Nelsons are tangible, but the former foster children found the family they longed for in one another. For readers seeking true stories of found families and surviving abuse, Grotticelli’s memoir is sure to please.

Takeaway: Grotticelli’s tell-all memoir of growing up as an abused foster child is gritty with positive notes, and will appeal to readers who want to see tough kids survive horrors and find happiness.

Great for fans of Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, David Pelzer’s The Lost Boy.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: C
Illustrations: -
Editing: C
Marketing copy: B