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Imposing Order on Grief

Rob Henderson's 'Troubled' is a disjointed book, but provides valuable testimony to the importance of a stable childhood.

· 23 min read
A childhood photo of Rob Henderson in a humble living room, smiling in front of a Christmas tree.
Courtesy of Rob Henderson.

A review of
Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class by Rob Henderson, 336 pages, Gallery Books (February 2024).

The events of Rob Henderson’s early life were shocking and tragic. His birth mother was an addict who “would tie me to a chair with a bathroom belt so that she could get high in another room without being interrupted.” After he was removed from her care by social services at the age of three, he never saw her again. He has never met his biological father. By the age of eight, he had lived in seven different foster homes. In the last of these, he was treated like an unpaid slave by a woman who once chatted on her phone nonchalantly as he almost drowned. He was finally adopted, only to witness his adoptive mother break up from two successive partners and to be deserted by the man he had begun to call Dad—events he felt especially keenly because of his background of deprivation and emotional neglect.

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