In the wake of her mother’s death, Jessica Pearce Rotondi uncovers boxes of letters, declassified CIA reports, and newspaper clippings that bring to light a family ghost: her uncle Jack, who disappeared during the CIA-led “Secret War” in Laos in 1972. The letters lead her across Southeast Asia in search of the truth that has eluded her family for decades. What she discovers takes her closer to the mother she lost and the mysteries of a secret war that changed the rules of engagement forever.
In 1943, 19-year-old Edwin Pearce jumps from a burning B-17 bomber over Germany. Missing in action for months, his parents finally learn he is a prisoner of war in Stalag 17. Ed survives nearly three years in prison camp and a march across the Alps before returning home.
Ed’s eldest son and namesake, Edwin “Jack,” follows his father into the Air Force. But on the night of March 29, 1972, Jack’s plane vanishes over the mountains bordering Vietnam and Ed’s past comes roaring into the present.
In 2009, Ed’s granddaughter, Jessica Pearce Rotondi, is grieving her mother’s death when she stumbles across declassified CIA documents, letters, and maps that reveal her family’s decades-long search for Jack. What We Inherit is Rotondi’s story of her own hunt for answers as she retraces her grandfather’s 1973 path across Southeast Asia in search of his son.
An excavation of inherited trauma on a personal and national scale, What We Inherit reveals the power of a father’s refusal to be silenced and a daughter’s quest to rediscover her voice in the wake of loss. As Rotondi nears the last known place Jack was seen alive, she grows closer to understanding the mystery that has haunted her family for generationsand the destructive impact of a family secret so big it encompassed an entire war.
|Publisher:||The Unnamed Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Jessica is a graduate of Brown University, where she received a research grant to conduct an oral history project on World War II. What We Inherit is her first book.
Connect with Jessica on Twitter and Instagram @JessicaRotondi or visit JessicaPearceRotondi.com.
Table of Contents
Part I Faith
Operation Homecoming 21
1 The Discovery
West Newbury, Massachusetts October 29, 2009 25
2 Gunner's Moon
Milford, Pennsylvania March 29, 1972 33
Chiang Mai, Thailand
November 16, 2013 41
Vientiane, Laos: October 13, 1973 47
Chiang Mai, Thailand: November 17, 2013 57
6 An American in Paris
Paris, France: April 15, 1975 69
Chiang Mai, Thailand: November 19, 2013 79
Milford, Pennsylvania: July 13, 1975 87
Vientiane, Laos: November 20, 2013 95
10 The Rallier
Binghamton, New York July 24, 1976 109
11 American Imperialists
Vientiane, Laos: November 21, 2013 119
12 The Trial
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas: March 27, 1979 133
Part II Blood
Vientiane, Laos: November 21, 2013 149
14 Politically Depressed
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: October 3, 1983 165
Savannakhet Province, Laos: November 22, 2013 171
16 White Christmas
Milford, Pennsylvania: December 24, 1984 191
17 Just Pray
Savannakhet Province, Laos: November 22, 2013 199
18 Archaeologists and Undertakers
Milford, Pennsylvania: March 7, 1986 209
19 Let Go
Milford, Pennsylvania: September 20, 2008 215
20 The Crater
Savannakhet Province, Laos: November 23, 2013 221
What People are Saying About This
"This fascinating memoir is at once about a moment in American history and the particular logics of grief. Jessica Pearce Rotondi begins, on the page and in striking prose, to unfurl the grief she feels at her mother’s death. Reading this book, I learned about the after-effects of war, and about the power of grace. I learned about hope, and its transformation into peace. What We Inherit is a powerful book about how we make sense of unfathomable loss - and about the realization that all loss is unfathomable. In our current world, with so much war and pain, this is the book we need." Eva Hagberg, author of How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Life-Saving Friendship