A revealing retrospect of the pain and embarrassment caused by growing up with a schizophrenic mother. Marketing writer Mints begins her story with the day police informed her that the body of her mother, victim of a brutal sexual assault, had been found near a freeway on-ramp in San Jose, California. Who was this 63-year-old woman, and how did she come to be living in a homeless encampment only a few miles from her daughter's residence? Although the author strives to make her mother a living, breathing person, she never knew her very well; Lucia Rothwell was frequently immured in mental hospitals or shipped off to relatives while Paula was growing up. Pictures of her disengaged brother, Michael, who fled to Alaska at 16, and of her harassed father, who got a divorce as soon as Paula and Michael left home, are more vivid. While Lucia remains a shadowy figure, the effects of her mental illness on the family are painfully clear.Yet Mints's guilt over not having taken care of her mother permeates this narrative. When the police seemed little interested in investigating the rape and murder of a homeless woman, she prodded them into action. With the DNA report from her mother's autopsy in hand, she was eventually able to search through the genetic profiles of men with criminal records and find a match. The second half of her book focuses on the trial of Richard Carrasco, at which Mints was a constant and keen observer. The narrative here blends recorded testimony with the author's description of her feelings as she watches the lawyers, judge, jury, witnesses, and defendant, searching for hints to her mother's identity, and her own. An uneven account that glosses over some key events (just how did Mints find that DNA match?) but gives a striking picture of the havoc wreaked by mental illness.
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