This memoir in the same vein as "The Glass Castle" is about a woman who struggled out of a terrible childhood to live a successful life, but ends being drawn back into her past, not by her own choice, but by her mother. She tries to deal with all of the feelings that revisiting her past brings up and also tries unsuccessfully to hold her mother accountable.
The author and her siblings grew up neglected and abused, passed through child retention facilities and foster homes, only to be repeatedly returned to a drug-addled, mentally ill mother who spent time in and out of jail and psych wards. The situation for the children is, of course, made worse by the constant string of men paraded in and out of their lives and with the lack of maternal attention that brings with it.
Once she is away from home and her siblings have been scattered all over the country, her mother keeps pulling her back in, constantly needing "help" and attention, then being abusive toward her adult daughter when she rushes to her aid.
Through talking with her mother she starts discovering more about her mother's history, and that her mental illness came from a childhood trauma of her own. She finds comfort in the fact that they have that in common, but still is unable to discuss her troubled childhood with her mother without her mother having to make it all about her. She ends up having to comfort a parent who took no responsibility for her actions.
By the end she says she is an American daughter, but also, with the way the welfare system for children being so broken, she was also the living example of the "American Nightmare".
It's a story about how children fall "between the cracks". There was no one catching the problem and helping in the education system for a child falling behind, there was no adult supervision of five of the children part of the time and no other adults were concerned about them being out on their own. It also demonstrates a damaged and failing foster care system, health care system, and legal system.
But it is also about one woman's journey to find the courage to look further than her own painful childhood into the past pain visited upon her mother and an understanding of her brokenness, even though the mother never takes responsibility for the harm she visited upon her own children. She understands that the psychic pain can be passed down for generations.
If you live biographies that delve deep into dysfunctional family psychology, you might like this one.
By Melissa Skinner