Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: Anne's Ghost

By Sandy Amazeen Jun 19, 2009, 6:19 GMT

Book Review: Anne's Ghost

Beth Luxenberg was an only child. Everyone knew it: her grown children, her friends, even people she\'d only recently met. So when her secret emerged, her son Steve Luxenberg was bewildered. He was certain that his mother had no siblings, just as he knew that her name was Beth, and that she had raised her children, above all, to tell the truth. By then, Beth was nearly eighty, ...more

Growing up in a catholic suburb of Detroit during the 50’s and 60’s, Luxenberg absorbed his Jewish immigrant family’s determination to become assimilated into American society. His parents and grandparents never passed on stories of life in the Ukraine and turned a blind eye to any imperfections like asthma or a club foot. For years Luxenberg’s mother Beth lamented about the loneliness of growing up an only child. It wasn’t until 1995 that Beth finally revealed the surprising truth to a social worker; she had a younger sister Anna. As Beth was critically ill with emphysema, Luxenberg decided not to confront his mother.

He waited until after her death before using his journalistic skills to search for the truth behind the family mystery and what happened to Anna. Old letters, assorted documents, hospital records and personal interviews submerge the author in a shadowy past when physical deformities and impaired mental capacity was not only frowned upon but also actively hushed up. Luxenberg discovered his mother lied to the social worker and likely, to herself, when she claimed Anna was sent away as a toddler.

This compelling truth story of a long buried family secret reveals Luxenberg’s prowess as a meticulous researcher and storyteller. Well organized and painfully honest when examining gruesome old mental health procedures, this is as much a tale of outdated social stigmas and medical practices as it is about personal discovery.

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