Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Friday, July 17, 2009

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg... a Review

Annie's Ghost by Steve Luxenberg
A Journey Into a Family Secret

About the Book...
Beth Luxenberg 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? How had Beth so thoroughly erased her sister's existence? Why had she wanted to?

At the age of 80 , and in fragile health, Beth Luxenberg casually mentioned to a new doctor that she had a disabled sister that was sent away at age 2. She was being treated for what the doctors thought initially were anxiety attacks but later would be diagnosed as depression. With his mother's emotional & physical problems, Steve Luxenberg and his sister decided not to probe the question they were dying to ask- What Sister?! The sister remained a total mystery until after the death of Beth Luxenberg, when a letter arrived in the mail.... a letter from Hebrew Memorial Park, the cemetery where Beth Luxenberg's parents were buried. The cemetery was offering to plant flowers on the family grave sites (something they offered yearly).... and listed 3 graves... the 2 grave sites for Steve's grandparents and 1 grave site for an Annie! More research into the cemetery records revealed that Annie was the mystery sister and that she had not died at age 2... she had died at age 53!

So begins the detective story that would lead Steve as far away as the Ukraine and as close as Beth Luxenberg's personal papers. A book about family secrets, but also about family. Mental institutions, the Holocaust, friends and the love & sadness that makes up a family, Steve's journalism background helps him research his family tree, but also to write an interesting story. Not just a family memoir, more like a fictional story. The characters are real people though and the story of family, a story we can all relate to in one way or another, written so compellingly that it holds your interest. For anyone who's ever wondered about their heritage, who's ever wanted to research their genealogy, Annie's Ghost will fascinate you. Slowly piecing together the bits of information Steve gathers from interviews, records and letters, sprinkled with memories of his parents and a peak in to some of those letters written between them, you will find yourself turning those pages! And wondering if a family secret revealed would change your whole perception of your family? Thanks to Julie of FSB Associates for sharing this book with me! I was drawn in immediately! Would you like to learn more about Annie's Ghost? Here's a link to Steve's website! And an Excerpt of Annie's Ghost!

Annie's Ghost would make a great book club choice! Plenty of things to discuss! The secrets that families keep and why? There's a reading guide HERE!

A Little About Steve...
Steve Luxenberg, an associate editor at The Washington Post, has worked for
more than 30 years as a newspaper editor and reporter.

Steve’s journalistic career began at The Baltimore Sun, where he worked for 11 years. He joined The Post in 1985 as deputy editor of the newspaper’s investigative/special projects staff, headed by assistant managing editor Bob Woodward. In 1991, he succeeded Woodward as head of the investigative staff. Post reporters working with Steve have won several major reporting awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes for explanatory journalism.

From 1996 to 2006, Steve was the editor of The Post’s Sunday Outlook section, which publishes original reporting and provocative commentary on a broad spectrum of political, historical and cultural issues.

For more info on Steve, the book or a look at his personal blog, please visit his website

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!


Darlene said...

I've been seeing this one around a bit. It sounds like such a good book. I'd love to read it one of these days. Great review Suz!

Anonymous said...

I am adding this to my "Books to Read" list.

Heidi V said...

This does sound like a interesting read, great review thank you for bringing it to my Books to Read List.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like such a fascinating story. I've read a few reviews of it in the past month and your review has me even more eager to get my hands on a copy.

My own family has a few skeletons in the closet that I've been exploring. I doubt any of them would make a good book though. :-)

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Dar!
Yes, this book has been making the rounds the last couple of months. Lots of buzz and for good reason, the author does a good job of making the story interesting and not just a 'dry' retelling....

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Iola,
Thanks for joining in! Definitely add this to your TBR list. Well worth the time. ....

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Heidi!
Finally a review without a giveaway! :D Thanks for saying hello! A very interesting story. Amazing how things are kept quiet for so many years!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hello Literary Feline! Family secrets are so amazing sometimes... I remember when I started doing my family tree and there were a few real whoppers in there! If only I had started doing the research while my grandparents were still alive... I may have had some understanding about the things I uncovered! ;-) ...

Steve Luxenberg said...

Suzanne: Thanks for the review. Annie's Ghosts gave me the chance to explore some of the major issues of the 20th century, including the evolution of mental health treatment in America. Secrets and secrecy stand at the center of the story, but identity is the book's overarching theme: How my mom recreated her identity, how my secret aunt lost hers.

The book is part detective story, part memoir, part social history. I set out to explore my mom's motivations for creating and keeping her secret, as well as the cultural forces that swirled around her, and her choices changed her life and the lives of those around her.

It's a universal story -- I've lost count of how many people have come up to me at readings and talk, asking if they can tell me their family secret.

--Steve Luxenberg

Cathy said...

I've seen several great reviews of this book - I will have to get it.

kalea_kane said...

Suzanne! This looks amazing. What an incredible story! Thank you for posting about it.


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