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Publisher's Summary

An acclaimed writer goes searching for the truth about her wildly unconventional Southern family - and finds that our obsession with ancestors opens up new ways of seeing ourselves.

“A road map for all of us who long to understand, at the deepest level, where we come from.” (Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance)

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022 - Oprah Daily, Time, Esquire, The Millions, The Week, Thrillist, She Reads, Lit Hub, BookPage

Maud Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother’s father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married 13 times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother’s grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in an institution. Mental illness and religious fanaticism percolated through Maud’s maternal lines back to an ancestor accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud’s father, an aerospace engineer turned lawyer, was an educated man who extolled the virtues of slavery and obsessed over the “purity” of his family bloodline, which he traced back to the Revolutionary War. He tried in vain to control Maud’s mother, a whirlwind of charisma and passion given to feverish projects: 30 rescue cats, and a church in the family’s living room where she performed exorcisms.

Their divorce, when it came, was a relief. Still, the meeting of her parents’ lines in Maud inspired an anxiety that she could not shake, a fear that she would replicate their damage. She saw similar anxieties in the lives of friends, in the works of writers and artists she admired. As obsessive in her own way as her parents, Maud researched her genealogy - her grandfather’s marriages, the accused witch, her ancestors’ roles in slavery and genocide - and sought family secrets through her DNA. But immersed in census archives and cousin matches, she yearned for deeper truths. Her journey took her into the realms of genetics, epigenetics, and the debates over intergenerational trauma. She mulled over modernity’s dismissal of ancestors along with psychoanalytic and spiritual traditions that center them.

Searching, moving, and inspiring, Ancestor Trouble is one writer’s attempt to use genealogy - a once-niche hobby that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry - to expose the secrets and contradictions of her own ancestors, and to argue for the transformational possibilities that reckoning with our ancestors offers all of us.

*Includes a downloadable PFD of the family trees from the book

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2022 Maud Newton (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A family story isn’t just about the people (even when they’re this colorful), and Newton touches on intergenerational trauma, mental illness, the influence of religion and more.” -The New York Times

“In grappling with her history, Newton explores intergenerational trauma, genetics and epigenetics, considering all the ways in which getting to know our ancestors can help us gain perspective on ourselves.” -Time
 

“Riveting . . . Masterfully blending memoir and cultural criticism, Newton explores the cultural, scientific, and spiritual dimensions of ancestry, arguing for the transformational power of grappling with our inheritances.” -Esquire
 

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Well-Researched Exploration of all Things Ancestral

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As I am completing my practitioner training as an Ancestral Healing practitioner I found it especially pertinent and enriching. The author does a great job of telling stories as she investigates her ancestry and how its themes run through her life‘s experiences.

I especially love the part towards the end when she goes to the Ancestral Healing workshop as that is the exact work that I am studying. I felt she did an excellent job describing the work and her experience of it.

I learned a tremendous amount about the science and the spirituality and the cultural relevance of Ancestry. Overall an extremely intelligent and well researched book on the current state of ancestry exploration.