Hannah Pool, a journalist for a British newspaper, was born in a small Eritrean town called Keren in 1974. Placed in an orphanage in Asmara, Eritrea's capital, shortly after her birth she grew up believing her mother had died in childbirth with her father dying shortly afterwards. When she was roughly six months old, malnourished and suffering from chicken pox, she was adopted by David Pool, a British academic, and his American wife, Marya. At the time, David was teaching at the University of Khartoum and Marya was doing voluntary work with some nuns.
Marya died when Hannah was four and briefly went to stay with some friends in Norway before moving back to England with her dad. By the time she was twenty, David was lecturing at Manchester University, with Eritrean politics among his areas of expertise. When Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, the guerrilla fighters he'd got to know in the 1970s had become government ministers. David was among the people invited over for the celebrations and, on impulse, went looking for the orphanage in Asmara. Not only was it still standing, it was still being run by the same nun - Sister Gabriela - who'd arranged Hannah's adoption.
Several months after David's return home came the bombshell : a priest David had spoken to at the orphanage wrote a letter with the news that not only was Hannah's biological father still alive, she also had at least one older brother. "My Fathers' Daughter" tells the story of Hannah's trip back to Eritrea to meet her 'natural' family for the first time.
This is a very easily read book, though it can't have been a very easy one to write. Hannah doesn't spare herself - her doubts, panics, frustrations and the occasional bout of confusion are all covered. The fact that much of the book is written in the present tense, in nearly a conversational tone, really helped put those feelings across. At times, it felt like I was intruding on something a little too personal - like someone else's diary, I was unsure I 'should' be reading parts of it. At the same time, however, it almost felt like the book finished too soon. The epilogue, looking back over the year after she returned home, could nearly have been worth a book itself. Very highly recommended.