Steve Luxenberg's hunt for the story of his hidden aunt is both a gripping detective story and a haunting memoir. It will leave you breathless. The personal tale is astonishing, and Luxenberg uses it to explore, in a deft and poignant way, the nature of secrets, memories, historical truth, and family love."Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Bejamin Franklin"
Annie's Ghosts is perhaps the most honest, and one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. It is an exploration into a family's past, a relentless hunt that unearths buried secrets with multiple layers and the uncertain motives of their keepers, and one son's attempt to fully understand the details and meaning of what has been hidden. "What to believe?" Luxenberg asks many times and in many ways as he sifts through documents, his probing interviews, his parents' letters, his own travels and recollections. From mental institutions to the Holocaust, from mothers and fathers to children and childhood, with its mysteries, sadness and joythis book is one emotional ride."Bob Woodward"
Annie's Ghosts, his wise, affecting new mamoir of family secrets and posthumous absolution. . . . Beth told her son often that she loved him. Annie's Ghosts is his elegy in return, a poignant investigative exercise, full of empathy and sorrowful truth."The Washington Post"
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."Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic"
Annie's Ghosts will resonate for many, whether the chords have to do with family secrets, the Depression, memories of a thriving Detroit, Holocausts horrors, or the immigrant experience.
"For me, the word to describe this book: Unforgettable."Detroit Free Press
This is a book about secrets: family secrets, secrets as wounds, secrets that begin as tactics and end as shackles. Like an archaeologist obsessed, Steve Luxenberg digs to unearth the long-buried truth about his mother's hidden sister, and as we travel with him on his quest, we find ourselves digging alongside him, we start to see how the pieces fit together, and we not only learn about his family, we learn about lost worlds and a lost time, we learn about ourselves, and we learn about the universally wounding, shackling, echoing life of secrets."Walter Reich, former director, Holocaust Museum"
Annie's Ghosts is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read . . . From mental institutions to the Holocaust, from mothers and fathers to children and childhood, with its mysteries, sadness, and joythis book is one emotional ride."Bob Woodward, author of The War Within and State of Denial"
I started reading within minutes of picking up this book, and was instantly mesmerized. It's a riveting detective story, a moving family saga, an enlightening if heartbreaking chapter in the history of America's treatment of people born with what we now call special needs."Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand and You're Wearing That?"
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."Helen Epstein, author of Where She Came From and Children of the Holocaust
A family secret leads Washington Post senior editor Luxenberg to reinterpret his family history. In 1995, the author learned that his aging mother had a sister she had never mentioned. It came up during a visit to the doctor; her parents had institutionalized their disabled two-year-old when she was four, she said, and she never saw her sister again. Since his mother was facing severe medical problems, Luxenberg felt this wasn't the time to pursue the details. After his mother's death a few years later, he learned that the sister's name was Annie and she was buried with his grandparents in Michigan. Determined to discover the truth about Annie, he began his investigation with an endless list of difficult questions. He learned that Annie had a deformed leg, amputated in 1936 when she was 17, and mental health problems. Her parents committed her to a state institution in 1940, a time when such places served primarily to remove patients from society rather than to help them recover or become fit to live in the outside world. Luxenberg's mother had been 23, not four, when Annie was committed. To the shame of being poor was added the stigma of having a sister in a state institution because they couldn't afford anything better. She wanted a different future, and to achieve this she believed she would have to bury her sister and her own childhood; she began to deny Annie's existence completely, telling people she was an only child. As Luxenberg slowly uncovers Annie's story, he realizes that by exposing one ghost, he exposes thousands; by discovering one secret, he discovers those of his entire family. The author calls on his investigative reporting skills not just to uncover the facts, but toexplore what happens when lies or omissions become truth, exposing the contradictions, contrasts and parallels that exist within every life, every relationship and every family. Beautifully complex, raw and revealing.