A somber and depressing account of a woman's incomplete escape from the most dysfunctional of families. New meaning accrues to the phrase ``self-help book'' as one comes to realize that here is a memoir written for the sake of the author's own therapy, a way of healing by finally letting go of the terrible secrets she has accumulated over her first 40 years (she was born in 1949). These secrets include a tyrannical upbringing on an isolated English farm, a horrifying encounter with a Nazi doctor, physical abuse at the hands of her first husband, anorexia, and a sad, unspoken heritage, the details of which her parents took to their graves, but not without a trail of bread crumbs that might lead the author to salvation and a much-needed sense of identity. The father, Russian-born architect Berthold Lubetkin, is clearly earmarked as the source of all the suffering and shows every warning sign of pure evil: he's a staunch communist, he verbally assaults his wife and children, he even has an evil eye, ``a pupil- less and inscrutable pigeon gray, like a monocle.'' Kehoe, a freelance journalist, seems more interested here in speaking to herself than to the reader, and so what is vivid in her mind is often vague on the page. She tells of her father's wicked sense of humor but offers little proof. Her brother and sister fade in and out of the book, never really achieving three-dimensional characterization, but rather serving at first as foils in the jealousies of a child desperate for attention and later as mileposts of the distance traveled from devastating childhood to a fragile maturity. Author, heal thyself.
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