What if the thief who steals your identity was your mother?

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Betz-Hamilton has widely publicized her story, so the revelation, discovered after her mother’s death, that Pam was the culprit from the start may be familiar to readers. The real mystery, however – around what the book should be structured around – is what motivated her. Why did Pam create the underworld the family lived in and how her daughter and husband didn’t realize what she was doing? When they came across evidence that Pam was a compulsive shopper, looking for “cheap bulky jewelry” from the Home Shopping Network, they still didn’t suspect her. Axton’s father once confesses to him, he opened the trunk of Pam’s car before a supposed work trip to check his spare tire only to discover dog collars, chains, leather straps and a book on S-and-M. But, he says, he accepted Pam’s explanation that the thing was for a video she was making for him for Valentine’s Day! With no indication that the parents were practicing S-and-M, his father became a exceptionally blind eye. John also says he considered following Pam to find out where she was going, but then decided he didn’t care.

Did I care or did I care to know? Every family has secrets, and often these secrets are hidden in plain sight – indeed, this motif is a pillar of literature. But the peculiar nature of this familial blindness remains frustratingly unexamined. Betz-Hamilton only discovers the truth in adulthood, three-quarters of the book, and the psychological explanations for her mother’s deception (perhaps Pam suffered from X or Y psychopathology) call for much more exploration. .

Betz-Hamilton concludes that Pam made over half a million dollars disappear. On her mother’s Facebook page and through her mother’s acquaintances, she learns that Pam was leading a secret life where she pretended to be divorced and paid for alcohol, restaurants and hotel rooms to meet her lover. . Forty pairs of shoes were tucked under her bed, many of which had never been worn. But, as Betz-Hamilton in rural Indiana puts it, “a person would have to put in an exceptional amount of effort to spend half a million dollars in their lifetime and still have so little to show.” She is haunted by the idea that, as Pam has hinted to someone, some of the money is stashed in an unknown bank account.

The book could have benefited from a circular structure, opening up to the discovery that the doppelgänger is the author’s mother, then retrospectively telling the story of his childhood, placing himself in an adult perspective. How is the author’s story similar and different from that of most victims? What is the profile of most thieves and how do they deceive us? – in short, the very subjects on which Betz-Hamilton lectures.

“The Less People Know About Us” was written in conjunction with Ashley Stimpson, a talented freelance journalist and professional ghost writer who describes herself as a “story surrogate” and has been involved in both writing and reporting . The resulting book is intimate and captivating, but can also have a claustrophobic and cluttered feel in its thicket of detail. As many memoirs do, it includes experiences which have been personally formative but which are foreign to the narrative. Stating his purpose in writing it down, Betz-Hamilton seems to misunderstand the genre. Towards the end, in an awkward and awkward passage, she says it was “written in the hope that someone, somewhere, can read it and realize that it has answers to my questions.” I would like to know the truth because the truth is important.

Well, yes and no. Understandably, solving the missing pieces of her mother’s crime is important to her, but it is not necessarily so for the reader. The other purpose of the book, she says, is to help victims of identity theft. But the test of a dissertation is its ability not only to speak to those who have had similar experiences, but, through the enchantment of good writing, to draw all readers into the unique life of the writer despite circumstances. With its piercing evocations of a lonely girl in a desolate world trying to shield herself from visible and invisible maternal enmity, this book passes that test better than many, but not, perhaps, as well as it could.

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