I read this book because of the beautiful and funny extract that was printed last week in the Observer; it turned out that the extract itself was to some extent summarised, and the chapter it was taken from is even more moving and indeed even funnier. The scene was Jackie's first meeting, surreal and difficult, with her birth father in Nigeria. He turns out to be born-again Christian and spends two hours blessing her - gruelling for both of them. Jackie's mum's response to the episode was: "eh did we save you!": as we see throughout the book, this is typical of the warmth and humour of her adoptive parents, attributes they have obviously passed onto Jackie and which gleams through her prose.
The interweaving of memories from different ages and stages has the effect of biography by theme - a brave and unusual choice as it is harder than a typical chronological story, but, because it is done so very deftly, it creates a story far more compelling than a more usual autobiography.
It never feels like an appeal to our sympathy, or the cry of a victim, despite the extraordinary range of difficulties Jackie faced at one point or another (summed up by her experience of a reading in a school where "anyone interested in adoption, racism or sexuality talk to Jackie..."). Instead, we are shown an array of scenes, difficult and funny, telling and warm, through her unfailingly luminous and limpid prose, from her childhood in Glasgow with communist parents, to meeting both birth parents (astonishingly, both born-again Christians), via pictures of a working poet's life. Stunning, just as the Observer extract promised.