I heard about Mary Anna King’s Bastards through an article on Uproxx a few months ago and clearly so did a few other people because after her book came out in late June there was a wait list at the local library.
Bastards is not a completely accurate title- Mary and her siblings were born to parents who were married (although at some points separated) but financial circumstances made keeping them all together impossible. Before Mary was two her grandfather & his wife came to New Jersey and took her younger sister, Rebbecca, to Oklahoma. Mary and her brother, Jacob, remained with their mother while their father drifted in and out of their lives. Their mother, Peggy, ended up getting pregnant for a fourth time and knew it would be impossible to keep this one; she found an adoption lawyer who paired her with a couple seeking a child. Lisa was the first of four sisters to be adopted by other families. Peggy tried to keep her family together by bringing Becca back to New Jersey but it only ended in all three children moving to Oklahoma.
Mary resented “Mimi” (her mother’s step mother) for taking her away from her family but she also felt very indebted to her and her grandfather for providing a life of material comfort that her biological parents couldn’t provide for her. After a few years Jacob returned to New Jersey while Becca and Mary were legally adopted by their grandparents. It isn’t really spoiler-y to mention all the siblings and the various combinations they were sent to live in because the core of the book is Mary’s struggle growing up with such a fractured identity.
The most heartbreaking part was when her grandfather confesses to Mary he had no idea there were more than three children until it was too late; he would have provided for all seven of them in order to keep them together but was never provided the opportunity.