This memoir begins with the emergence of a secret. Wendy Fairey was 46 and it was five weeks after the death of her mother, Sheilah Graham, the well-known Hollywood columnist and writer, that Fairey learned who her true father was--the British empiricist philosopher, A. J. Ayer. She had known Freddie Ayer since her first trip to England at age eleven, when he took her to a bookstore and bought her Tess of the d'Urbervilles. She liked and admired him far more than her putative father, Trevor Westbrook, the man Sheilah Graham had married to legitimize her baby. But she had not, while her mother was alive, known the truth. One of the Family tells of Fairey's quest to reclaim her father--still alive at the time she learned his identity--and, even more importantly, to come to terms in her mind with her mother, who had been such a mythic presence in her daughter's life, and whose enormous lie, coming posthumously to light, threatened their relationship in its now revised perspective.
Wendy Fairey's fine narrative deftly weaves the strands of past and present, linking her own family history to her mother's and to those she considered fathers. Growing up in the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s, Fairey lived a charmed life, taking the swimming pools, tennis courts, and, frequently, the company of movie stars for granted as part of her childhood domain. As a teenager, however, she began to learn her mother's secrets--a childhood spent in an East End of London Jewish orphanage and her tragic romance in the 1930s with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died in December 1940 in Sheilah Graham's living room. In college, Fairey sought to leave her early life behind, to form her own aspirations, to get away from the movie world and become a university professor--only in the end to be forced to come to terms with herself.
She also looks back on her experience of several fathers: the dour Trevor Westbrook; the charming, intellectual Freddie Ayer; a disastrous stepfather known as Bow Wow; and no less important than these, though an acknowledged ghost, the man Sheilah Graham offered to her children as their spiritual father, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
. Wendy Fairey's beautifully crafted memoir pays homage to her accomplished parents--above all to her ebullient mother--but hers is also a story of a daughter's reclamation of herself from her mother's fictions through her own fine powers of perception, reflection, and language.