Approaching Neverland

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For as long as she could remember, Peggy Kennedy bore witness to her mother’s mental illness. While growing up in the 1960s, Peggy’s mother, Barbara, often liked to play games of make-believe and tell the children they were all going to Neverland—just like Peter Pan. But while the children knew it was all pretend, Barbara believed it to be all too true.

Approaching Neverland recounts Peggy and her family’s attempts to deal with their mother’s mental illness during a time when it...

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Approaching Neverland: A Memoir of Epic Tragedy & Happily Ever After

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For as long as she could remember, Peggy Kennedy bore witness to her mother’s mental illness. While growing up in the 1960s, Peggy’s mother, Barbara, often liked to play games of make-believe and tell the children they were all going to Neverland—just like Peter Pan. But while the children knew it was all pretend, Barbara believed it to be all too true.

Approaching Neverland recounts Peggy and her family’s attempts to deal with their mother’s mental illness during a time when it was little understood and even feared. With brutal honesty and surprising humor, Peggy shares the turbulence of growing up under the shadow of Barbara’s illness, of being shuffled from one family member to the next, and of visiting her mother in the mental institution. As the years pass, the shadows of Barbara’s challenges become a loving legacy in Peggy’s quest to achieve happiness and fulfillment in her life.

A vivid, haunting portrayal of one woman’s struggle to understand how the past fits in with her future, Approaching Neverland is as inspiring as it is beautifully written and will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A captivating memoir of love, loss, mental illness and redemption. Kennedy walked into her first day of first grade alone, with unkempt hair that both her parents had neglected to brush. So begins her saga of having a mother whose mental illness (eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder) resulted in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Her mother's condition led to greater challenges than messy hair, of course, which included near-fatal episodes involving delusional beliefs. The book's scope ranges far beyond this single issue, however; Kennedy paints a vivid picture of a family's travails and triumphs. She describes unintended pregnancies, unacknowledged homosexuality, substance abuse, military service in Vietnam, attempted suicide and homicide. Kennedy grounds her family's history in the zeitgeist of changing times, enriching the narrative by illustrating the impact of societal issues on her loved ones. Her sophisticated rendering of bittersweet situations evokes complex emotional reactions. Despite the masterful emotional portrayal, Kennedy sometimes skims the surface when she discusses her own grief. A grittier discussion of that personal topic might have improved the memoir, but it's not an omission that brings down the book as a whole. Each character--portrayed with empathy and balance--speaks with his or her distinctive voice, adding a layer of realism to dialogue. Kennedy's straightforward writing and economical prose lend density to her telling; every page feels significant. Apt, memorable phrases--"Her voice sat up straight" and "[L]ife was an illusion. Love was the real living"--further animate the work. Kennedy's experiences form a unique constellation, but the life lessons are universal. Poignancy without pity, triumph without glory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440126130
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/24/2009
  • Series: Rising Star Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 21, 2009

    Her Family Comes Off The Page, Embraced By Her Mom, Defined By Her Dad

    I read Ms. Kennedy's story little by little. Really, her memoir is many stories entwined into one. I could not have read it in one sitting - like a bag of BBQ potato chips circa 1968, it was best in small helpings. Ms. Kennedy's vivid account of growing up in the 60's in the Bay Area brought back many memories of how we felt, thought and acted in a middle class neighborhood, in a middle class town, under the guiding hand of San Francisco's aura, Every word enhanced her story - overwhelmingly sad at times and intensely personal. The real gift of her memoir is that so many of us with life secrets can relate. So many of us whose lives have been touched by mental illness, challenging family dynamics, contrarian roles, and difficult choices can find inspiration in her story. How wonderful that she has chosen to share.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

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    Unforgettable ...

    "Approaching Neverland" is an unforgettable memoir. Peggy Kennedy's account of the tragedies facing her family showed both courage and compassion. I have read a number of great books where endearing characters have died. And I remember feeling like I should have cried but the tears never came. This book was different. It moved me so that I choked back tears of anguish and joy multiple times during the reading.

    This candid story will be of help to many of us who have dealt with the difficulties of adversity. It gives us hope of the phoenix rising, where we can and will find the strength and beauty that can only come from the ashes of the past.

    A wonderful book for new beginnings ...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2014

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    Moments of brilliance throughout this amaing memoir. Peggy Kenne

    Moments of brilliance throughout this amaing memoir. Peggy Kennedy shares a lifetime with us and I want more. Hope she's working on it!

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  • Posted February 10, 2010

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    A Mom's Choice Awards Recipient!

    Approaching Neverland is a recipient of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award. The Mom's Choice Awards® honors excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. An esteemed panel of judges includes education, media and other experts as well as parents, children, librarians, performing artists, producers, medical and business professionals, authors, scientists and others. A sampling of the panel members includes: Dr. Twila C. Liggett, ten-time Emmy-winner, professor and founder of PBS's Reading Rainbow; Julie Aigner-Clark, Creator of Baby Einstein and The Safe Side Project; Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling Author; LeAnn Thieman, motivational speaker and coauthor of seven Chicken Soup For The Soul books; and Tara Paterson, Certified Parent Coach and founder of the Mom's Choice Awards. Parents and educators look for the Mom's Choice Awards seal in selecting quality materials and products for children and families.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    A Story of Rare Courage and Candor

    I whole heartedly recommend Approaching Neverland as a memoir to read, even study. It is a story of rare courage and candor. Statistics reflect that in nearly every family, a member is visited by some form of mental illness. The ways in which the writer's mentally ill mother experiences her terrors is only a small part of this story. Each of the five children unconsciously adopts an important position in this family. The quiet hard working Dad loves his wife and family, but seems to be in the dark and unable to figure it all out. Of course, this took place in an era devoted to denying family problems. During this time, there were few autobiographies or memoirs revealing the inner pain families experienced. I might be wrong, but I think the glorifying of suffering in silence was even more true in the old-fashioned Catholic families. Being raised in a similar belief system at an earlier time, I risk this generalization. The journey of the parents and five children is poignant, courageous, humorous and compelling.

    Psychotherapists need to order this book NOW, read it and share it with clients and colleagues. Any therapist with any specialty at all will gain depth, insight and compassion from a deeper reading of this family story. There are strands of painful themes often overlapping each other. The perfect Catholic family deals not only with coping with Mom's bi-polar sieges, but the "coming out" of two gay older sons, and a lesbian sister. Sadly, AIDS takes the oldest son. The unsolved murder of the middle sister takes the reader to an even deeper level of grief, trauma and loss. How did this family not blow apart from all this pain?

    The weaving together of love, suffering, and creativity in this book touched me deeply. The hard working, "married-way too young" Dad - seemed lost, confused and yet devoted to his wife and children. Each child seems to individuate and find their talents and paths. Amazing!

    The children growing into young adulthood seem to flail about, some rebelling (normal), some experimenting, others fumbling through his/her own reading of life. There was not much guidance or understanding from the outside.

    I wonder if the writer, Ms. Kennedy, the youngest child, ever realized she would in many ways be the family guide. Each sibling turned to her at one time or another for guidance.

    I do believe anyone who has lived with a family member burdened with mental illness will appreciate and be comforted by this story of maturing under duress.

    Living through their mother's episodes and hospitalizations carved each child into his/her gifted, amazing self. The delightful flavor in the story is the humor, and fun the kids and Mom share along with the crises.

    I think families and professionals of all descriptions would be enlightened about the stalwart human spirit through reading the Kennedy family saga. The writer with her siblings' generous permission shares the human truth without romanticizing, dramatizing or omitting the funny events. Ms. Kennedy paid her own dues and shares the benefit of this with not only professionals, but families living through such pain and challenge. I for one, as a professional am grateful for this gift of truth, not only for myself and my work, but to share with others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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