Tuesday, May 12, 2009
BOOK REVIEW -- ANNIE'S GHOSTS BY STEVE LUXENBERG
Walter Isaacson, Author of Einstein called Annie's Ghosts a gripping detective story and a haunting memoir. He said, "It will leave you breathless." And it did leave me that way. It arrived in the afternoon mail. In the evening I had to attend a concert. I could hardly put the book down. The next day I picked it up and read until I reached the last page. I was breathless.
Steve Luxenberg's mother always claimed to be an only child, but a chance mention led to the discovery that she had been hiding the existence of a sister, Annie. The girls had grown up together, living in a series of cramped apartments until Annie's commitment to a mental institution at the age of twenty-one. Why was Annie committed? Why did her sister so thoroughly erase her existence? Why had she wanted to? Annie's Ghosts is the engrossing, eye-opening story of Luxenberg's search for the personal motives and cultural forces that influenced his mother's decision to create and harbor her secret.
I connected with this book immediately because my father was in a mental institution during the same period of time that Steve Luxenberg's aunt was. I was fascinated by the similarity of his story and mine and drawn into an emotional ride back through time.
Tony Horwitz, author of A Voyage Long and Strange and Confedrates in the Attic said, "Steve Luxenberg sleuths his family's hidden history with the skills of an investigative reporter, the instincts of a mystery writer, and the sympathy of a loving son. His rediscovery of one lost woman illuminates the shocking fate of thousands of Americans who disappeared just a generation ago." Helen Epstein, author of Where She Came From and Children of the Holocaust wrote, "This is a memoir that pushes the journalistic envelope...Luxenberg has written a fascinating personal story as well as a report on our communal response to the mentally ill."
Steve Luxenberg has been a senior editor with the Washington Post for twenty-two years, overseeing reporting that has won numerous awards, including two Pultizer Prizes for explanatory journalism. Combining the power of reportage with the intrigue of mystery, Annie's Ghosts explores the nature of self-deception and self-preservation. The result is equal parts memoir, social history, and riveting detective story.
Bob Woodward, author of The War Within and State of Denial said, "Annie's Ghosts is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read." I agree with Woodward. This is indeed a remarkable book and I recommend it to all, but especially to anyone who has had any experience with mental illness in the family or with friends. This is a beautiful book.