"An emotional tribute to an extraordinary 17-year-old girl through the eyes of her biggest fan: her mom."– Kirkus Reviews
A heart-wrenching memoir penned by a grieving mother who struggled to come to terms with her daughter’s devastating accident.
Vaughan’s (The True-Life Adventures of Genie and Janny, 2012) 17-year-old daughter Niecy had a way with animals—she’d taken troubled pigs, cats, birds, bugs and even a cougar under her wing. But in 1975, while Niecy was riding her horse, Action, something went terribly wrong. Vaughan watched, in horror, as her child was thrown from the horse, trampled and rendered unconscious. She slipped into a coma, and although Vaughan clung to the hope that her daughter would wake up and become her vibrant self again, waiting for a prognosis was unbearably painful. Like a hazy fever dream, the author alternates between harrowing stories of living in the hospital for months at a time and lush, honeyed memories of her energetic daughter as a child. “Niecy couldn’t be bothered to part her hair straight or tie a proper bow,” Vaughan writes. “She could, however, lasso a running cow, cat, peacock, dog, and often, her sister. She flunked health class but nursed countless baby birds, rabbits, hamsters, and kittens back to life.” As Niecy’s health declined, Vaughan faced the possibility of a life without her daughter and best friend. But with her daughter’s gentle spirit as a guide, the author navigated her way through grief, depression, and perhaps the most difficult task of all, completing her memoir, which took 38 grief-filled years to finish. A palpable anguish colors the book’s narration, and a few passages feel vague and brief, presumably because they were excruciating to write. But in Vaughan’s eyes, Niecy was a hero—a kindhearted, wide-eyed dreamer who changed the lives of everyone she met. Although mothers aren’t typically the most reliable narrators, Vaughan’s homespun tales of Niecy the Famous Kid—the nickname that a giggling Niecy dreamed up for herself while collecting shells with her mom on the beach—are stirring, tender and overflowing with love.
An emotional tribute to an extraordinary 17-year-old girl through the eyes of her biggest fan: her mom.
Vaughan’s debut memoir recalls her and her brother’s childhoods.
In this memoir of growing up during the Depression and World War II in Indiana, Vaughan explores her relationships with family members. Her bedrock was her older brother, Genie. Together they navigated their complex school-year lives in Marion, Ind., with two hardworking, stressed parents who couldn’t make ends meet despite their three jobs. Vaughan and Genie spent summers on a 40-acre farm with their loving maternal grandparents and the “Old Ones,” their grandmother’s problematic, not-so-loving parents. Their summers were not bucolic adventures. The near 100-year-old great-grandfather suffered from dementia, occasionally shooting at his great-grandchildren for sport. Their great-grandmother was a mean-spirited harpy who took delight in hurling verbal abuse at her daughter, Florrie. The farm provided the setting for most of Genie and Vaughan’s adventures with a rotating cast of badly behaved animals—mainly acquired by Grandpa in ill-advised trades—that added challenges and hilarity to the children’s summers. Particularly memorable is Big Red, the raping rooster, who was ultimately executed. Genie’s imagination further sustained them; he treated Vaughan as his corporal as they carried out missions around the house to keep it safe from Nazi invaders. Meanwhile, Genie also kept his sister safe from bullies at home. A realistic snapshot of troubled family life 60 years ago, this is book is appropriate for YA and adult readers. The author and Genie garner sympathy as they deal with far weightier matters—abuse, death, deprivation—than children their ages should encounter. Genie was not just his younger sister’s protector and caretaker but a young man admired by his peers, who was able to transcend poverty and self-consciousness. Vaughan’s novel is a tribute to her beloved brother, as well as her loving grandparents.
A bleak, often heart-wrenching account of two children who made their own way during a difficult time with difficult people.