Category Archives: True story

** Homesick by Jennifer Croft

Homesick portrays two sisters who grow up under the shadow of the younger’s seizures, so violent that they force their parents to homeschool them. The older one and narrator falls in love with her Russsian tutor, tries to go away to university at age 15, but keeps loyal to her sister. I loved the family interactions, all very loving between all actors, but the story seemed a bit too unmoored to my taste.

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*** The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton

The author of The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity has a mother who, having full control of the family’s finances, failed to pay important bills, stole her daughters’ identity to obtain credit, and spent a small fortune on herself. All that was perhaps discoverable during her mother’s lifetime (although her father did not really want to know, it seems), and came to light, disastrously, after her death. Since the author had since become an expert on identity theft, of which she knew she had been a victim, albeit not by her own mother, she was able to untangle most of the tangled web. Sad and scary family story.

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*** Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller

 

Alexandra Fuller, although quite young, has written several memoirs (Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, my favorite, and others here and here) borrowing heavily from per parents’ lives to be sure, and the latest, Travel Light, Move Fast, follows the same formula of plentiful flashbacks to her childhood and even before, this time to talk about the death of her father, and how difficult it was for her, her sister and her mother. She tells of her father’s restlessness, the strong partnership he had with her mother, and their ability to create homes throughout southern Africa. It’s a wonderful mix of grief, battles with airlines, and crocodiles that eat farmed fish.

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** A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin

A Life of My Own is a memoir by a writer who specializes in biographies, so it’s an opportunity to observe a professional at work. She includes plenty of personal commentary on her own life, from her fractured childhood between divorced parents, at a time when it was a matter of shame, and during WWII to boot, to her own difficult marriage, and moving accounts of her children, living and dead, and an especially poignant portrait of a son who was born with spina bifida. Her professional life, although very successful in the end, was tough at first, when she could not find a professional job despite her Cambridge degrees. Society has made some progress since then, it seems.

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*** Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church reminded me of Educated, which also stars a young woman brought up in a fanatical family, but with a very big difference: here, while fed a dizzying diet of one-sided Bible stories, the author is also encouraged to read the entire book, go to school and college, and not only browse the internet, but also be the voice of the Westboro Baptist Church online.

I found the story of how she slowly realized that the church, founded by her dictatorial and intolerant grandfather, was based on a lie, and that the coercive methods he employed were unacceptable, fascinating because of two things. One, she manages to talk kindly about the people involved, especially her mother, even as she details the errors of their ways. And two, she describes very clearly how painful it is to leave a church that is also her family, since it means that she will literally never see many of her relatives again.

 

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*** The Perfect Predator by Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson

Written as a memoir, mostly by the scientist of the title, The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug tells a spellbinding story of a very sick man, her husband and co-author, who endured months of severe illness, much of it in ICU, while fighting antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. In the end, an extremely experimental procedure involving a customized bacteriophage (the unlikely shape on the cover of the book) won the battle, propelled by a formidable phalanx of scientists with FDA connections, led or at least inspired by the first author. From a scientific perspective, it’s an amazing tale. From a societal perspective, it feels a little strange to see the deployment of such formidable tools being engineered solely through the connections of the principals–but reviving bacteriophage therapy may well serve many other patients in the future.

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** There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald

There Will Be No Miracles Here starts and end in a combative and confusing mood–but do persevere to the (vast) middle part, which tells the story of a rough childhood, followed by a football scholarships to Yale and entry into Wall Street. This is not a simple success story, and the author takes great care to explore the stunning contrast between his impoverished neighborhood and the halls of power, as well as the prejudices and twisted logic that allow schools and other institutions in poor neighborhoods to wither while the rich congratulate themselves on helping a chosen few to escape.

You would be bitter, too.

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