A Ukrainian-American writer’s account of the heartbreaking details she learned about her parents and their relationship after the death of her widowed, alcoholic mother.
When Yurchyshyn returned to Boston after her mother died, she found a once “enchanting” home in shambles. Even more disturbing was the discovery of letters her parents had exchanged with each other that revealed unexpected depths of passionate affection. The author remembered her father, George, as “emotionally distant and occasionally abusive” and her mother, Anita, as “resentful and selfish.” Determined to understand parents she believed had never been in love, she began re-examining her life with them. Her Ukrainian-born father had been a bank executive and her colorfully bohemian mother, the international vice president of the Sierra Club. Both had been travelers who journeyed to cities all over the world. While her parents projected a glamorous image to others, Yurchyshyn saw a very different picture at home. George’s meanness and unprovoked rages terrified her, and Anita “looked like she was performing joyfulness without actually feeling it.” George eventually took a job in Ukraine, where he died in a car accident when the author was 16. Left alone in the United States, Anita began the slow, agonizing descent into the alcoholism that eventually contributed to her death years later. Seeking answers beyond the tantalizingly incomplete records her parents left behind, Yurchyshyn interviewed friends and family members. She learned of the difficult backgrounds George and Anita had both overcome and of the infant son they loved and lost before the author was born. Most devastating of all, Yurchyshyn came face to face with the truth behind her father’s death: George, who had returned to Ukraine to help establish a venture capital company, had been murdered. Searching and intense, Yurchyshyn’s book is not only a heartfelt examination of parent-child relationships; it is also an unsentimental interrogation of the complex nature of family love.
A probing and candid memoir.