Laurie Sandell’s The Impostor’s Daughter is very much unlike any memoir I have read before. Firstly, it is a graphic novel, which I hadn’t expected, having not read a thing about the book before opening to the first page, and secondly, her story speaks so honestly that quite a few times I re-read a page thinking ‘Did she really just say that?’
A great deal of daughters have complete and utter adoration for their fathers; coming from an unconventional, single-father home myself, I know the feeling very well. Laurie grew up hanging on every syllable her father told her about his life; from being a former green beret, to having studied law at NYU and receiving his PhD from Columbia University to serving as an economist and adviser to Henry Kissinger. To say the least, Laurie’s father was an entirely and completely important man; she obviously stemmed from pure greatness! But it wasn’t until Laurie was in college and when applying for her first credit card, she realized she already had one… she soon found out that her father had taken out several loans and credit cards in her name, ruining her credit when she realized maybe all of her father’s stories of grand achievements and a life lived hard wasn’t all he said it was.
While her father was the essence of the word “con man,” Laurie’s life was indeed full of excitement. She spent four years exploring the world, traveling to Israel, Japan, Jordan, Paris, Mexico, Egypt and Thailand. She took on many roles including being a stripper in Tokyo, seducing a woman in Israel and she grew addicted to Ambien and found herself in a downward spiral which included passing out in the bathtub night after night after an Ambien/wine cocktail. She, understandably, also had many man troubles.
Sandell started working for the very famous women’s magazine Glamour interviewing celebrities and it was in Ashley Judd where she found a wonderful friend who also ended up saving her life, suggesting she enter rehab. And so she did. It was in rehab where she had the opportunity to address the problems in her life that stemmed from her father and his lies, figuratively and then personally and she has also been sober for some years now. She slowly but surely pieces her father’s life together, meeting with members of his family with whom he had alienated himself from years prior and seeing as much of his big picture as she could.
I could not stop reading The Impostor’s Daughter. I opened it, started reading and did not put it down until the next morning, when I was completely finished. I have read the book twice, both times taking me no more than two sittings and during the first time, I actually carried it with me to the bathroom a few times. It is a story that has yet to get old and I definitely foresee myself reading it again–It is that good. I really respect the course that Laurie Sandell has taken in her life, whether it be good, bad or destructive because she did wind up on her feet and rebuilding an impressive professional career. She had the nerve to air her family’s dirty laundry not because she wanted to have something over her father, but because her story is one that needed to be told and was a pleasure to experience however briefly and she did it successfully, with wit and honesty.