True grit in ‘The Bond,’ a memoir about family survival

After enjoying the 2013 TV series “The Fosters” (ABC Family/Freeform), which follows the stories of several foster children in southern California, I was intrigued to read a memoir that tackled the realities of the American foster care system. A.M. Grotticelli’s “The Bond: How a Mixed Bag of Foster Kids Became a Family for Life” (Atmosphere Press) is one such book. It’s an honest story, relaying how one family remained intact despite many challenges. Oddly enough, while reading “The Bond,” I discovered “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix miniseries about a foster child from an orphanage who turns out to be a chess genius. If you have enjoyed either of these programs, you will find a lot to like in The Bond.

The writing is raw, honest and direct. There is no softening or romanticizing of the truth, but there is also no dramatization. A.M. Grotticelli (known as Angelo in the story) does a terrific job building the suspense by merely relaying what happened. At times, I wondered where the book was going as it seemed to be a random series of memories and events. Yet, I also had this feeling that a hammer was going to drop and drop hard. Although my instincts proved correct, I was still unprepared for the foster parents’ harshness towards the children.

Grotticelli has a way of describing what were seemingly pleasant events while subtly inserting ideas that create a cloud over the situation. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. Although the author doesn’t reveal what is wrong to his readers until the end of the story, they’ll easily understand that something’s amiss, and the suspense Grotticelli creates beckons them to continue.

I could feel the pain of the characters. There is an urgency in the writing masked by a straightforward telling of the story. The author leaves it up to the reader to decide how to interpret the different events until he offers his interpretation at the end. I had read about half of “The Bond” when I started watching “The Queens Gambit,” which amplified the orphanage scenes in both the book and the miniseries.

A ROLLERCOASTER OF A PLOT

The Nelsons (the foster parents) take in children from several different families, which introduces many new characters and relationships throughout the book. Grotticelli offers detailed backstories of the various children after concluding his own. Between the growing cast of characters and the author’s narrative style, which often jumps back and forth in time through his “ten roller-coaster years,” readers will need to stay on their toes. The effort is well worth it. This is a powerful read.

“The Bond” is a story of resourceful survivors. Some made out better than others, but amazingly, so many of the characters turned out well, and they all kept in touch. The book reflects real life — the messy mix of good and bad, black and white. If you like raw honesty, straightforward writing, good storytelling, hard truths and hard-fought victories, then you will enjoy Grotticelli’s memoir as much as I did.

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