- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From The CriticsEven though Hemley's memoir is non-fiction, the family portrayed in this book is as bizarre as one might find in a John Irving novel. At age 13, Hemley's older half-sister Nola had a life-transforming dream, leading her into the spiritual world and eventually to madness. Shortly before her 26th birthday, Nola died as a result of an accidental overdose of Thorazine, prescribed to control her schizophrenia.
Three years later, Hemley's curiosity was aroused when he discovered a legal document denying Nola's status as her father's legal heir. He gradually reconstructed his family's history after years of research including painstaking translations of Nola's journal (which was written in Sanskrit), letters from family members (written in Yiddish), and the spoken words of his mother, who used church Latin when telling Hemley about the family's early life.
Nola is filled with visions and voices; fairies and ghosts; lies and embellishments of the truth. However, Hemley suggests, this book should not be viewed as the story of his half-sister going mad, a story of death or a story of change. Instead, the author proffers this as a story of love. And although the pieces of this puzzling story are somewhat disjointed, Hemley relates an engaging tale of a family dealing with spiritual obsession and mental illness.