Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Secret Girl--#54 finished

This is a tragic and very moving book.  A true story of a well to do family in Baltimore area that has twin girls with one of the twins having hydrocephalus, water on the brain.  This was in the early '60s I believe and just a few years short of the medical improvements for the child.  The family made the decision to have the little girl institutionalized.  The original thought was the girl would at most live a year.  The institutionalizing is upsetting but this was a different time and the mother was a little unstable, okay.  What followed though was an almost total disregard for this child Annie.  The book is written by an older sister that didn't find out until around 12 or 13 that she had a sister in an institution.

Again this is a well to do family, in one passage the author talks about the research she did into where Annie was living.  When Annie was around 4, she had outgrown the newborn and infant care house and needed to be moved.  The family applied for a spot at a state institution but would only pay what they were paying at the infant house.  While the family and director were sending letters back and forth, the mother, father & the oldest--the author--took a trip to Italy & Europe for a couple weeks.  This is a family where on the mother(and maybe both sides) that can trace back to the earliest Americans--a real blue blooded family.  The mother almost never visited her child and the father only rarely--about once a year--all while they were only minutes away.  Again upsetting but family wants to distance themselves--really upsetting but in their shoes and all, but when the state asked about sending Annie into foster care for her benefit on not being in an institution and into a more socially appropriate setting--they refused.

After reading these parts of the book, I am really trying my best to not judge the parents.  I certainly don't want to presume hell but that almost seems the case.  Purgatory would be a blessing.  I keep reminding myself that people are complex beyond even our comprehending them and this book only touches on a silver of the lives of the parents so balancing could appear elsewhere in their life--I can only hope for their sake that is the case.

Anyway, the oldest sister was successful in many ways but also screwed up in as many--an alcoholic to the point where it nearly ruined her life.  The author doesn't come out and say it but it seems as though Annie in a way was almost part of the reason she was able to be sober for many years.  Again people are complex and Holly or Brucie as she was also called, was quitting as a lawyer to become a writer, was divorcing her husband and father of their 2 sons and it sounds like it was a bitter divorce as well as she was trying to connect with Annie.  Lots going on and all that.  In the epilogue she mentions one of her sons dying tragically in Africa at age 11 and she became a drunk all over again.  This was also at a time when Annie's health was dropping and eventually Annie died.  A sad sad ending to the story.  This book is a real lesson I think for people to see that all people must be respected.  It had to be a very difficult book for the author to research her sister's life and observe through the research the almost monstrous actions of her parents.

This is a well traveled PBS book, I am the 6th owner and have already posted it.  It is the only copy on the system so I expect it will be moving soon.  I gave some thought to keeping it but again figured that this book was too moving to keep--let it be spread out to others.

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