Wilton residents Rick and Annette Kaye may have hit number one on Amazon’s bestseller list, but their book, Revelation, A Memoir of Deep Family Secrets, Discovery, and Identity, is more than a publishing Cinderella story.
The book is Rick’s deep dive into the devastating family secrets his parents perpetuated for over 60 years, kicked off when, at a synagogue fundraiser advertised as a fun “DNA Reveal Dinner,” Rick and his sister, Randye, were shocked to discover they are, in fact, half-siblings. What’s more, within 48 hours, they learned the man they called ‘Dad’ was not biologically related to either of them.
Revelation will take center stage on Wednesday evening, Sept. 7, at Wilton Library, when author appearances return after a two-year COVID pause. Rick and Annette will be sharing the story with a live audience at Wilton Library in the Brubeck Room from 7-8:30 p.m. (Seats are still available, register on the Wilton Library website.)
The story kicks off in March 2018 at the fundraiser, a dinner where a genealogist spoke to attendees who had gotten DNA tested. Both Rick and Randye had done the testing.
“Rick’s sister and Rick never looked alike, and Rick never looked like anybody in his family — a little bit like his mother, but he’s blonde and blue eyes. His sister has dark hair, dark eyes, like the rest of the family,” Annette explained. The results showed that rather than having a 50% DNA overlap of full genetic siblings, Rick and Randye overlapped by only 20%.
“I thought Rick was going to pass out. He just turned white. His eyes looked glazed. He had this ridiculous smile on his face. And then he snapped out of it and he uttered the words, ‘I knew it,’ Annette recalled.
Revelation takes the reader on Rick’s emotional roller coaster as he began the search, wrestling with deception, secrets, and lifelong memories now seen through a new lens. He and Annette became obsessive detectives to painstakingly unravel the mystery and find the identity of his biological father.
Complicating things was that none of the prior generations were alive to provide any details or context for what had gone on before Rick was born. They only knew that whatever had happened took place in the New York metro area and the basic timeline start based on Rick and Randye’s birthdates.
Rick said his burning need for the truth about his paternal medical history and ancestry is what motivated his yearlong quest to uncover the facts.
One of the first things they uncovered was the existence of the Bellevue Hospital Secret Clinic — “Secret is the operative word here, clearly,” Annette said, with a laugh.
The book details their gradual digging into and discovery of more details about Rick’s information, including the identity of Rick’s biological father and more — much more.
“Rick started out as being in a family with two siblings. And now rather than having two full siblings, he’s one of 13 half-siblings…” Annette said.
“…By seven different mothers,” Rick added.
What’s more, the couple explained, none of those half-siblings knew anything. “None of them had any idea of what was going on. And we are the ones who told each one individually,” Annette noted.
Rick added that no one was unhappy to have learned the news. In fact, the opposite was true, according to Annette: “A lot of the donor-conceived, half-siblings were only children, and now they have kind of a network of siblings.”
And what about Rick’s feelings? If he knew that fateful decision to take a DNA test for the synagogue fundraiser would kick off his incredible journey of discovery, would he do it all over again?
“That’s an easy question to answer. I’d say yes, because knowing the truth about my paternity has validated certain feelings I have regarding my family. I always felt a little bit apart from them and, for better or worse, it’s good to understand the feelings that you have rather than just put it away. I’m glad that I was able to resolve the fact that it was not an affair or rape, which would’ve been unbearable to deal with, and that this donor insemination was done with both the knowledge and consent of both of my parents — that they were willing participants in this. So it was an act of generosity on the part of my father. It magnified him and amplified him in my mind,” Rick said.
As the first author appearance at Wilton Library following a two-year hiatus from live events, a chat with the Revelation authors Rick and Annette will give attendees at the talk so much in addition to Rick’s story. The Wilton couple said they’ll be sharing things they’ve learned about the very early years of artificial insemination, so different in the 1950s than it is today.
It’s especially timely with the rise in interest and activity in DNA testing.
“There’s information in the book if there are other people out there that are looking to do a search, how we did it. It’s almost like a guidebook, a how-to aspect. And how to make contact with various relatives who may not know that you’re related to them closely. I think there are plenty of people out there that are struggling with, how do I take this information and what do I do with it?” Annette said.
There’s a cathartic element some readers have had to the memoir too, according to the Kayes.
“Part of the book looks back on his childhood with a new lens, reevaluating things that happened to him as a child, knowing what his parents knew and he didn’t know. If he thinks that affected his relationship with his parents. We’ve been told a lot of people have enjoyed reading that,” Annette added.
The Kayes’ experience also had another lasting impact — it changed how the DNA testing company that participated in the synagogue fundraiser operates.
“What started out with this kind of fun DNA reveal dinner in our Temple, it was the first one that they did. But they were naive. We’ve spoken to the genealogist after this happened, he’s apologized, and he said that they’ve changed a lot of the way they approach this now. It may be fun for some people, like ‘I found out I’m a fifth cousin to the senior rabbi.’ Okay, that’s a fun fact. But having something like this that happened to Rick and Randye is not that unusual that they took notice, and they’ve changed the way they approach it now,” Annette explained.
Across the DNA testing industry too, there have been changes, Rick added. “There are warnings for 23-And-Me, Ancestry, My Heritage, they all have warnings in their Terms and Conditions, or Risks and Considerations, that you may find out something you don’t want to know and you can’t unknow it.”
It was something neither Rick, Annette or Randye considered ahead of time. “It didn’t even occur to us for a second that we were going to find out what did happen to Rick. It was like decades of keeping the secret perfectly preserved. Not a hint. But those kind of deep family secrets, they have to affect the entire family,” Annette said.
Revelation is the authors’ first book, which attained instant number-one bestseller status on release day in several categories on Amazon. It is published by Gershon Press and available online. Copies also will be available for purchase at the event for signing.
GOOD Morning Wilton is the media sponsor of the Wilton Library author talks.