characters, Hamster Island has, at its core, a conflict familiar to us all: How can we be good to
others while also being good to ourselves? � This tale of caregiving and self-actualization is
unique, but it abounds with insights for us all.
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Heartwell chronicles her heroic (and often hilarious) determination to live an unremarkable life as a member of a poor, super-dysfunctional family that includes a mostly absent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special needs siblings, all residing more or less in the middle of a parking lot. The story moves from Heartwell's lively coming of age in the sixties to her role as caretaker for both siblings after her parents' deaths, at which time she must resort to extraordinary measures to locate the midpoint between their needs and her own.
Brilliant and magical, Hamster Island takes its rightful place among such darkly comic and original memoirs as Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors and Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle.
What people are saying:
"Bittersweet, engagingly written, and populated by a household of strong-willed, idiosyncratic characters, Hamster Island has, at its core, a conflict familiar to us all: How can we be good to others while also being good to ourselves? ...This tale of caregiving and self-actualization is unique, but it abounds with insights for us all."
~ Rachel Simon, New York Times bestselling author of Riding The Bus With My Sister and The Story of Beautiful Girl
"Joan Heartwell invites us into her life on Hamster Island with great honesty and humor and warmth. This memoir will resonate deeply with anyone who ever longed for a 'normal' family, anyone who ever escaped the chaos of their childhood home, anyone who was ever bound by love to return."
~ Gayle Brandeis, novelist, winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of Literature of Social Change
"The most gorgeous literary works are, in my mind, the most courageous. They take language as their tool and use it to winnow wheat from chaff until the story stands out in all its pain and glory. Joan Heartwell's Hamster Island does this and more...."
~ Kate Niles, author of The Basket Maker (ForeWord Book of the Year) and The Book of John
"A riveting story of a life-long struggle to relate to a by-times jealous and by-times indifferent mother and siblings afflicted by mental and social challenges."
~ Damian McNicholl, author of A Son Called Gabriel
"Joan Heartwell's poignant and unsparing account of growing up with her disabled siblings will resonate with those whose siblings can never be their peers, and help them realize that they are not alone."
~ Jeanne Safer, PhD, author of The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling and Cain's Legacy
Joan Heartwell has published several fiction titles under another name. She makes her living as a freelance writer and editor.
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