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The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters: A True Story of Family Fiction

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Ever since she was young, Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. According to family lore, early in the twentieth century the sisters' parents decided to move the family from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles so their father could become a movie director. On the way, their pregnant mother went into labor in St. Louis, where the baby w Ever since she was young, Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. According to family lore, early in the twentieth century the sisters' parents decided to move the family from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles so their father could become a movie director. On the way, their pregnant mother went into labor in St. Louis, where the baby was born and where their mother died. The father left the children in an orphanage and promised to send for them when he settled in California--a promise he never kept. One of the Morris sisters later became a successful Wall Street trader and advised Franklin Roosevelt. The sisters lived together in New York City, none of them married or had children, and one even had an affair with J. P. Morgan. The stories of these independent women intrigued Klam, but as she delved into them to learn more, she realized that the tales were almost completely untrue. Part memoir and part confessional, and told with the wit and honesty that are hallmarks of Klam's books, The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is the fascinating and funny true story of one writer's journey into her family's past, the truths she brings to light, and what she learns about herself along the way.


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Ever since she was young, Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. According to family lore, early in the twentieth century the sisters' parents decided to move the family from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles so their father could become a movie director. On the way, their pregnant mother went into labor in St. Louis, where the baby w Ever since she was young, Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. According to family lore, early in the twentieth century the sisters' parents decided to move the family from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles so their father could become a movie director. On the way, their pregnant mother went into labor in St. Louis, where the baby was born and where their mother died. The father left the children in an orphanage and promised to send for them when he settled in California--a promise he never kept. One of the Morris sisters later became a successful Wall Street trader and advised Franklin Roosevelt. The sisters lived together in New York City, none of them married or had children, and one even had an affair with J. P. Morgan. The stories of these independent women intrigued Klam, but as she delved into them to learn more, she realized that the tales were almost completely untrue. Part memoir and part confessional, and told with the wit and honesty that are hallmarks of Klam's books, The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is the fascinating and funny true story of one writer's journey into her family's past, the truths she brings to light, and what she learns about herself along the way.

30 review for The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters: A True Story of Family Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Three and a half stars on this one. I’m glad I read it, and I thought it was an interesting story. I’ve done a little genealogy on my own family, so I definitely connected with her experiences, and she had really thoughtful insights into why people might feel compelled to research family members that they barely knew. I loved the idea of the ways that stories from your family’s past can help define your own story about yourself. I just felt like the tone didn’t really hit for me - it was self-de Three and a half stars on this one. I’m glad I read it, and I thought it was an interesting story. I’ve done a little genealogy on my own family, so I definitely connected with her experiences, and she had really thoughtful insights into why people might feel compelled to research family members that they barely knew. I loved the idea of the ways that stories from your family’s past can help define your own story about yourself. I just felt like the tone didn’t really hit for me - it was self-deprecating but also a bit clueless. There is definitely a niche for books by non-experts who are able to be ironic and funny about their own non-expertise, but she didn’t quite have that irony, so her conclusions (I bet life under Communism was bad and it was sad to live in an asylum!) ended up feeling simplistic without being sufficiently self-aware about everything she was still missing. I also couldn’t help feeling like there was some padding going on … in a book that is just a shade over 250 (small) pages, I get suspicious when you reprint every word of every email you exchanged with various librarians, even if the intention was really to give a “you are there!” tone to the story of the research. It did inspire me to pop back onto my Ancestry page again, though, so that’s a success.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura Zigman

    I'm a huge Julie Klam fan -- I've loved every one of her books -- and this is one of my absolute favorites (but I love them all). On one level a genealogy-detective story, on another level a meditation on the stories families tell about themselves (some of them true; some of them not true), THE ALMOST LEGENDARY MORRIS SISTERS is a joy to read. Julie's trademark humor and warmth are evident on every page. I loved this book. I'm a huge Julie Klam fan -- I've loved every one of her books -- and this is one of my absolute favorites (but I love them all). On one level a genealogy-detective story, on another level a meditation on the stories families tell about themselves (some of them true; some of them not true), THE ALMOST LEGENDARY MORRIS SISTERS is a joy to read. Julie's trademark humor and warmth are evident on every page. I loved this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peg Price

    I was hoping for more but it was a pleasant but a bit boring trip doing family research. I don’t think there was enough information to warrant a book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    I so loved this book. Julie Klam's wonderful sense of humor winds throughout this book that is an always engaging hunt to uncover a family mystery. Where better in these days of Ancestry and 23 and me than to look to your own family for wildly interesting stories? And Julie's never disappoints. I so loved this book. Julie Klam's wonderful sense of humor winds throughout this book that is an always engaging hunt to uncover a family mystery. Where better in these days of Ancestry and 23 and me than to look to your own family for wildly interesting stories? And Julie's never disappoints.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill Kern

    I really wanted to like this book. The premise is wonderful, but the journey is eye-rollingly mediocre.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ellyn

    I cannot say enough about this fascinating book written by Julie Klam. Her research about her family, The Morris Sisters, led her to Romania and her descriptions of the roads and synagogues have made me want to visit there even more than before. Ancestors can become part of your life if you welcome their stories. This book is about her family but could be the saga of many Jewish families that emigrated ( minus the specifics). Julie Klam may be my new favorite author and I’m waiting for another b I cannot say enough about this fascinating book written by Julie Klam. Her research about her family, The Morris Sisters, led her to Romania and her descriptions of the roads and synagogues have made me want to visit there even more than before. Ancestors can become part of your life if you welcome their stories. This book is about her family but could be the saga of many Jewish families that emigrated ( minus the specifics). Julie Klam may be my new favorite author and I’m waiting for another book to arrive today. Great read 📖! P. S. I’m sharing this with my mother in law , aunts and uncles so I’m keeping it in my family

  7. 4 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    This totally makes me want to research my family! These four infamously single, successful sisters were Klam’s grandma’s cousins. She set out on a journey to glean more about the Morris Sisters - why they never married nor had children; how their wealth came to fruition. Plenty of family lore existed, but how much was true? She uncovered some surprising missing details. Absolutely fascinating read. And I loved Klam’s dry wit!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jancee Dunn

    I love all of Julie Klam's books, but I really think this is my favorite -- absolutely fascinating, hilarious as always, and there are so many surprises that it reads like a suspense novel. I was eagerly turning the pages to see what happened next. I love all of Julie Klam's books, but I really think this is my favorite -- absolutely fascinating, hilarious as always, and there are so many surprises that it reads like a suspense novel. I was eagerly turning the pages to see what happened next.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Crow

    I really enjoyed Julie Klam's The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters. Here's some of my review, for BookPage: Growing up in the 70s, Julie Klam heard stories about her grandmother’s first cousins, the Morris sisters. These were Selma, Malvina, Marcella, and Ruth Morris, who immigrated from Eastern Europe with their parents around 1900, and were soon orphaned in St. Louis, but who eventually made their way to New York City, where they made a fortune. “I was told they were completely crazy, obscenely I really enjoyed Julie Klam's The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters. Here's some of my review, for BookPage: Growing up in the 70s, Julie Klam heard stories about her grandmother’s first cousins, the Morris sisters. These were Selma, Malvina, Marcella, and Ruth Morris, who immigrated from Eastern Europe with their parents around 1900, and were soon orphaned in St. Louis, but who eventually made their way to New York City, where they made a fortune. “I was told they were completely crazy, obscenely wealthy, never married, had no children, and all lived together in a house in New York City,” Klam writes in The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters, her sixth book. “The common thread in the stories was that every one of my father’s family had a story to tell about them, most of them involving how… little they gave to [fill in relative’s name who is telling the story].” In her conversational, often funny style, Klam takes us along on her intrepid search for the truth, near truth, and outright lies embedded in her family’s colorful lore about the Morris sisters. Klam visits older family members to record their conflicting stories, and learns a surprising secret about the girls’ mother. And she visits various sites in the sisters’ lives, most affectingly the Jewish orphanage in St. Louis where three of the sisters were sent as children, and two small towns in Romania—there, Klam takes in the towns’ abandoned Jewish cemeteries and near-abandoned synagogues. Along the way, Klam weaves in anecdotes and the records she uncovers, and we get to know these sisters, who emerge as distinct individuals, and yes, almost legendary women. But The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is not so much a story about the sisters as it is the tale of Klam’s search, her wrong turns and dead ends, and on the sadder truths that family members papered over. “It turns out that finding the truth in a family can be tricky,” Klam notes, an understatement. The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is a quick and entertaining read, but it offers a meditation on the meaning of family, and what our ancestors mean to us, even when we can’t get as close as we’d like to the entirety of their stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    I really enjoyed this book! I paused writing that opening sentence. I wanted to write "memoir," but that isn't quite right, and neither is "biography." And, yet, it is both of those things. In short, Ms. Klam had some relatives--long deceased--a couple of generations older and a bit removed, that had attained legendary status in their family. They were four unmarried sisters who lived together their entire lives. One became fabulously wealthy through her own intelligence and hard work in a time I really enjoyed this book! I paused writing that opening sentence. I wanted to write "memoir," but that isn't quite right, and neither is "biography." And, yet, it is both of those things. In short, Ms. Klam had some relatives--long deceased--a couple of generations older and a bit removed, that had attained legendary status in their family. They were four unmarried sisters who lived together their entire lives. One became fabulously wealthy through her own intelligence and hard work in a time when WOMEN DID NOT DO THAT. Another was in the arts. But there were copius stories about all of them, about their mother who died in childbirth, about the father who abandoned them in an orphanage, about the affair with JP Morgan, the visit to FDR's White House, the charitable donations, and on and on and on. But as Klam digs into researching these fascinating relations, she finds facts elusive and often nakedly contradictory to what she'd always been told. This is one of those quest books--to find answers--where it's the journey as much as the destination. Klam is a likeable everywoman with whom to spend time. And I have to admit her Jewish cultural identity and and references were part of the attraction for me. What can I say? She's a member of the tribe. The ultimate answers, what ones Klam was able to establish and others she could only speculate about, weren't disappointing at all. These women were... not of their time. No, they weren't famous, but they were fascinating in their own way, and more than worthy subject matter for a book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chava

    This book about Klam's exploration of her genealogy -- specifically four Romanian sisters and their history, seems like a "Plan B" book. She wanted to write about her eccentric cousins, but because there was so little information available, she wrote about her research and its twists and turns. It is interesting and Klam shows a dry sense of humor when faced with the frustration of tracking documents through bureaucracies and not being able to access records. I was drawn to the book because of th This book about Klam's exploration of her genealogy -- specifically four Romanian sisters and their history, seems like a "Plan B" book. She wanted to write about her eccentric cousins, but because there was so little information available, she wrote about her research and its twists and turns. It is interesting and Klam shows a dry sense of humor when faced with the frustration of tracking documents through bureaucracies and not being able to access records. I was drawn to the book because of the four sisters. It reminded me of four sisters from Transylvania (now Romania), who immigrated to America after World War I: Vilma - my grandmother, smart and sweet and totally devoted to her husband and daughter (my mother) Irma - the baby, even when she was 80 years old, worked as a bookkeeper, was married late and never had children Estee - had some kind of back problem - stayed home and cooked and cleaned for the family Rose - the eldest, worked as a cook. She had left her husband while still in Romania, she had one daughter and never remarried. (Another sister, Helen, had moved to Israel after World War II) When I was growing up, Irma, Estee, and Rose lived together and used to host the family on Sunday. So although Klam's relatives were somewhat reclusive, comfortable enough to donate large sums to Brandeis and their local library, and much quirkier than my great aunts, the book brought back a lot of fond memories. I really enjoyed how Klam had to wade through family lore to get to the facts and what really happened with the sisters.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julia Beck

    There was just so very much to love about Julie Klam's latest book. The concept of family fiction is a familiar one. Those stories that get bigger and more impressive the years pass, we've all got them. There was something about Julie's approach as to how much of the true history continues to get lost/ morphed/ idealized as the years go by, especially the realities of Jewish life in Europe in the early 1900s hits a rough, but essential note. The ways in which she brings her very open mind to her There was just so very much to love about Julie Klam's latest book. The concept of family fiction is a familiar one. Those stories that get bigger and more impressive the years pass, we've all got them. There was something about Julie's approach as to how much of the true history continues to get lost/ morphed/ idealized as the years go by, especially the realities of Jewish life in Europe in the early 1900s hits a rough, but essential note. The ways in which she brings her very open mind to her research make the whole of it so very compelling. The conversations with family as well as strangers. The journey of getting from myth to fact or at least close. And the ways in which these sisters each come out from their umbrella into very individual characters is compelling to say the least. I am sending this in audio format (great to hear from Julie in her own voice) to the many women in my family. I suggest you do the same once you have fist gifted this to yourself. Enjoy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Majka

    This really was a delightful audiobook. Julie Klam always writes so candidly about her journey through life, and this take on her delve into researching and learning about some pretty confusing family history was no different. I had no idea who the Morris sisters were when this started, and when it ended I didn't want to stop hearing about them and their fascinating history. This really was a delightful audiobook. Julie Klam always writes so candidly about her journey through life, and this take on her delve into researching and learning about some pretty confusing family history was no different. I had no idea who the Morris sisters were when this started, and when it ended I didn't want to stop hearing about them and their fascinating history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sally Koslow

    A delightful read told in Julie Klam's charming, highly conversational voice. The book is as much about genealogical research, with its many dead ends and rabbit holes, as it is about the author's four zany, chain-smoking cousins. A very quick, captivating read. A delightful read told in Julie Klam's charming, highly conversational voice. The book is as much about genealogical research, with its many dead ends and rabbit holes, as it is about the author's four zany, chain-smoking cousins. A very quick, captivating read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Nice little book, quick read. I can't say that I felt that I ever got to know the Morris sisters very well. The author interjected a lot about her own life, which wasn't unwelcome and at times pretty funny, but it wasn't what I thought the book was going to be about. Nice little book, quick read. I can't say that I felt that I ever got to know the Morris sisters very well. The author interjected a lot about her own life, which wasn't unwelcome and at times pretty funny, but it wasn't what I thought the book was going to be about.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I’m active on ancestry.com, so I really appreciate that lots of research is mostly months of plodding, and often turns up dead ends. Significant discoveries are a rarity. That being said, Julie Klam’s research of the Morris sisters went exactly the same way. I was just hoping that she had cut out the myriad details of the dead ends and the rambling about her feelings about her family. It felt like too much filler to me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adam Forrester

    I enjoyed learning about Julie’s pursuit of truth and reading about how difficult that is to find when one digs through family history and public archives. It made me want to do something like this myself with my own family history. Also, I’m glad to have been able to travel with her, through her writing, to the specific places she visited for her research.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Deb Ruth

    A friend recommended this book since she knows how much I love family history research. Enjoyable and quick read. I agree, if you do genealogy research this book will resonate with you better than those who don't investigate their ancestors. Liked the fact author didn't find all the answers to "family stories" she set out to discover (which is the case for many researchers). But she did find different and equally fascinating facts. Also, fun to read along with her methods and see how she learns A friend recommended this book since she knows how much I love family history research. Enjoyable and quick read. I agree, if you do genealogy research this book will resonate with you better than those who don't investigate their ancestors. Liked the fact author didn't find all the answers to "family stories" she set out to discover (which is the case for many researchers). But she did find different and equally fascinating facts. Also, fun to read along with her methods and see how she learns along the way.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Klam's effort to discover the truths about her family- her cousins Selma, Malvina, Marcella, and Ruth Morris- is the larger part of this interesting memoir of sorts. The sisters who were abandoned in a St Louis orphanage after coming from Romania managed to overcome their circumstances (although sone challenges dogged them) and become wealthy women who endowed a variety of charities. This illustrates how families shape their histories to fit- not everything she'd heard over the years was true of Klam's effort to discover the truths about her family- her cousins Selma, Malvina, Marcella, and Ruth Morris- is the larger part of this interesting memoir of sorts. The sisters who were abandoned in a St Louis orphanage after coming from Romania managed to overcome their circumstances (although sone challenges dogged them) and become wealthy women who endowed a variety of charities. This illustrates how families shape their histories to fit- not everything she'd heard over the years was true of course. I appreciated the details, often humorous, of how she did her research but felt these overshadowed the women. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ASC. An entertaining read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A potentially interesting story that dead-ended at every turn. I was disappointed and bored.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stevie Jefferis

    This book was a quick, fun read! While it advertised being about the Morris sisters, it is much more about Klam’s journey to uncover the facts and her research steps! As a former history major, I loved hearing about the research process for Klam, but I do wish it was filled with more anecdotes about the sisters and their lives. Overall, a good book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    There were lots of wild and crazy stories about her grandmother's cousins, the four Morris sisters, but they couldn't possibly all be true. So, Julie Klam sets off on a genealogical journey to St. Louis, Southampton, NY, and Romania to try to separate the facts from the myths and legends. This was an interesting and entertaining audiobook, narrated by the author. However, when it became clear that she wasn't going to find all (or really many) answers, I kind of lost interest. It felt like she ha There were lots of wild and crazy stories about her grandmother's cousins, the four Morris sisters, but they couldn't possibly all be true. So, Julie Klam sets off on a genealogical journey to St. Louis, Southampton, NY, and Romania to try to separate the facts from the myths and legends. This was an interesting and entertaining audiobook, narrated by the author. However, when it became clear that she wasn't going to find all (or really many) answers, I kind of lost interest. It felt like she had to add a lot of filler - like all of the dead ends and brick walls she encountered in her research that turned out to be irrelevant - to make this into an entire book. Readers interested in genealogy and family history might be more interested. It's certainly a quick and easy read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Basically a book about how she did not find any information.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A writer undertakes genealogical research to uncover the truth about the fabled Morris Sisters (her second cousins twice removed) -- who lived unusually independent lives as women who came of age and made a fortune in 1920s New York. The title is misleading, because the author uncovers little new information about the women. Mostly, this book narrates the writer's own experiences and feelings on this journey. She travels to Romania and St. Louis in her research and relays how difficult her tasks A writer undertakes genealogical research to uncover the truth about the fabled Morris Sisters (her second cousins twice removed) -- who lived unusually independent lives as women who came of age and made a fortune in 1920s New York. The title is misleading, because the author uncovers little new information about the women. Mostly, this book narrates the writer's own experiences and feelings on this journey. She travels to Romania and St. Louis in her research and relays how difficult her tasks are. I'd guess this book is 30% about the Morris sisters and 70% about Julie Klam's obsession with herself. The most annoying tic here is her reliance on sarcastic parenthetical statements (many with exclamation points!). Ugh. Not recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Buyer beware, or Reader Beware! This is a great book, very interesting from the research and genealogical point of view. But you are not signing up to read the escapades of the Almost Legendary Morris Sisters. Yes, they sound like they were amazing women for their time. But this book is more about the author's search to uncover all about their lives than all the things the Morris sisters may or may not have done in their lifetimes. As a genealogist, I really enjoyed the book, and the author's ex Buyer beware, or Reader Beware! This is a great book, very interesting from the research and genealogical point of view. But you are not signing up to read the escapades of the Almost Legendary Morris Sisters. Yes, they sound like they were amazing women for their time. But this book is more about the author's search to uncover all about their lives than all the things the Morris sisters may or may not have done in their lifetimes. As a genealogist, I really enjoyed the book, and the author's experiences of coming up against her family's "brick walls," travels to the homeland, and much more. I think those who have done a bit of ancestor digging will enjoy this more than people who are merely expecting a story of the Morris sisters. I listened to the narration, which was well done by the author. I intend to get the book from the library, as I am interested to see the photos included.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Wilmes

    This is an Audible book review by a document, research and narrative non-professional genealogist (meaning no DNA). Poor eyesight led me to fantastic Audible and that appears to have given me the advantage of the tone of voice in hearing rather than reading this book. The narration of letters, email and texts was very helpful. I have so far no family story nearly as notable as Ms. Klam’s. Hundreds if not thousands of hours of research and financial commitments nearly as large as the estate of Ma This is an Audible book review by a document, research and narrative non-professional genealogist (meaning no DNA). Poor eyesight led me to fantastic Audible and that appears to have given me the advantage of the tone of voice in hearing rather than reading this book. The narration of letters, email and texts was very helpful. I have so far no family story nearly as notable as Ms. Klam’s. Hundreds if not thousands of hours of research and financial commitments nearly as large as the estate of Marcella Morris has been invested in family history with some success but I have nothing approaching the remarkable insight in family dynamics she has assembled. The story truly registered with me as familiar and genuine personal urgency to actually see and visit the places her ancestors lived, worked, and loved. Klam’s bravery and commitment to personal contact by phone, mail and visit with sources of documents and stories was inspiring. It recalled our trip to Appalachian Virginia (literally the West Virginia border) to find an area once occupied in the Revolutionary War era by relatives who 30 years later crossed the mountains and the Ohio for northern Illinois. We spiraled up and down mountain roads through a small crossroad to reach an unimproved state road which on the map included the family surname. Leaving the last small town before the little crossroad, we were followed by a late model pick-up. Eventually, as we stopped to get a short video of the area along the unimproved road, the driver approached me to let me know that he had followed our New York plate to make sure we “weren’t stealing nothin”. All I had seen was a dancing creek, a narrow, lovely early spring valley, a few cows, a few small houses and some swing sets. We quickly reversed back to the closest Interstate although it meant duplicating part of the trip. Newly inspired, now I should try some different trips. This was a great way to hear of another non-professional’s work. It makes me think of the song with the lyric noting that you don’t always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Diana (Reading While Mommying) Dean

    I enjoyed the intent of this book--to share the research process and information found by Klam about her unique, intriguing relatives, the Morris sisters--yet the execution of this endeavor left me wanting. Klam shares funny research anecdotes with conversational ease. As a reader, you can tell she's deeply interested in correcting the family fiction and many questions about her relatives' lives and her excitement piques your interest as well. Unfortunately, as she states numerous times throughou I enjoyed the intent of this book--to share the research process and information found by Klam about her unique, intriguing relatives, the Morris sisters--yet the execution of this endeavor left me wanting. Klam shares funny research anecdotes with conversational ease. As a reader, you can tell she's deeply interested in correcting the family fiction and many questions about her relatives' lives and her excitement piques your interest as well. Unfortunately, as she states numerous times throughout the novel, even with all of her research and discoveries, there's still not much there, "there." The Morris sisters were experts, it seems, at living lives of barrier breaking for women at the time, especially in regards to their financial success, yet they were also very adept at keeping their lives confidential from not only the public at large, but also their own extended family. The teases are truly intriguing: They were Romanian immigrants whose father put his daughters in an orphanage after their mother was admitted into an insane asylum. Marcella, the oldest sister, who was a whiz at the stock market (unheard of for women at the time) to the tune of a multi-million dollar legacy. Ruth, Malvina, and Selma, each mysterious and unique in their own way. The even more distant brother Sam. I don't want to give too much away re: what Klam finds out, but the tidbits certainly whet the reader's appetite for more. And that's my main issue with this book. The tidbits don't add up to complex, well-rounded portraits of the sisters. Klam even admits this numerous times: How much she wasn't able to find out. It seems too sparse for a novel. Much of the book's pages are used by Klam discussing the people she met with, the locales she traveled to, the food she ate, and there's even a long section the repeats--word for word--the judgment in a court case involving Ruth Morris. And, sadly, litigious text is dull when plopped in the middle of a novel. I appreciate Klam's zeal for search and discovery, her funny anecdotes and asides, and her deep love for these women she never met, yet this book could have probably been a funny long-form article or essay. As compelling as the lives were that these four sisters seemed to have lived, the reality of the situation--that there is so much no one will ever truly know--takes away from the enjoyment of Klam's journey/process.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    I am so glad that I read this chatty book about 3 inspiring and intriguing women in the author's ancestry. I have been working on my family's stories for two decades and have a great aunt who I have always thought should have a book written about her. I love that Ms Klam didn't just consider it -- she did it! The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters introcuces us to Selma, Malvina, Marcella and Ruth Morris. The author grew up hearing tales about these women and eventually decided to learn more. These I am so glad that I read this chatty book about 3 inspiring and intriguing women in the author's ancestry. I have been working on my family's stories for two decades and have a great aunt who I have always thought should have a book written about her. I love that Ms Klam didn't just consider it -- she did it! The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters introcuces us to Selma, Malvina, Marcella and Ruth Morris. The author grew up hearing tales about these women and eventually decided to learn more. These women were her grandmother's first cousins. They immigrated from Eastern Europe with their parents at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately they weren't in the US (St. Louis, Missouri) for long before they were orphaned. Eventually the sisters moved to NYC and made a fortune. The author's childhood lore described the sisters as crazy, wealthy spinsters who all lived together in one house. Like most family stories, much of this was exaggerated or untrue. I found these women intriguing and often inspirational. To uncover their lives the author visited the Jewish orphanage in St. Louis, their home country of Romania, and NYC. Her descriptions of places, finding records, balancing conflicting narratives -- it was conversational, humorous and at times almost reverential. I got the feeling that Ms. Klam found a new fondness for these women, alongside the truth. I felt like I got to know these women. And that I did that by sitting across a breakfast table, sipping my beverage and talking to the author. A quick and entertaining read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liz Willard

    I thought I'd learned and accepted that I don't have to finish every book I start, but I proved myself wrong again with this one. I struggled with the author's writing style right away. I generally like casual, conversation-like writing, but this one was just so unpolished, so rough, it was distracting. (One example - "I believe the technical term for me is "dum-dum." Really? This is a professional author?) Beyond the writing style, this book is such a disappointment overall. Every chapter repeat I thought I'd learned and accepted that I don't have to finish every book I start, but I proved myself wrong again with this one. I struggled with the author's writing style right away. I generally like casual, conversation-like writing, but this one was just so unpolished, so rough, it was distracting. (One example - "I believe the technical term for me is "dum-dum." Really? This is a professional author?) Beyond the writing style, this book is such a disappointment overall. Every chapter repeats the same pattern: she thought this information was true, she looked (uselessly) here, she found that information might be wrong, but in the end she's not really sure about anything but that trying to find information is hard. I stuck with it because I thought she'd actually learn something interesting, but - spoiler alert - she doesn't. She tries to share some insight on how she feels about her distant relatives and what their lives mean to her, but that rings false. Skip it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura Zlogar

    If you have never done any family research, you might like this book. If you have, you (if you are like me) will find it annoying. Anyone who has spent a little time on Ancestry could have found much of the information the author stumbles upon. But then she had an expense account allowing her to travel to St. Louis and Romania, to hire a research assistant, and to fall helpless at the feet of librarians, public employees, and others to have them so her work. Do we really need to read every email If you have never done any family research, you might like this book. If you have, you (if you are like me) will find it annoying. Anyone who has spent a little time on Ancestry could have found much of the information the author stumbles upon. But then she had an expense account allowing her to travel to St. Louis and Romania, to hire a research assistant, and to fall helpless at the feet of librarians, public employees, and others to have them so her work. Do we really need to read every email she received verbatim? Do we really need to know irrelevant details about hotels or her childhood? The Minneapolis Star Tribune reviewer raved about this book. While the author’s cousins were interesting women, she never really translates the facts she discovered about them into compelling portraits.

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