In this debut memoir, a determined young woman comes of age in New York City following the death of her mother.
Donsky’s mother, Veronica, died giving birth to her younger brother, Eddie, but no one in the family told the author—not even her father. She “never hear[s] him say her name, never found a picture of her in the house.” Instead, she spent her adolescence believing that her mother was “missing,” until a cousin finally told her that she was dead. Her father remarried when her brother was still an infant, and he made the author swear to never tell Eddie that “Miss Marge” isn’t his real mother. The lie was a terrible burden on the author: “When a child is forbidden to say what he or she knows to be the truth…the heart is never free and easy.” As she grew older, she longed to go to college, but her father said that “no one needs college to get married and have a bunch of kids.” However, she was dead set on leaving Yonkers, so she took night classes at Fordham University and became a stewardess for Trans World Airlines. Eventually, she did marry, and while on a trip to visit her mother’s grave, she uncovered a terrible secret. Donsky’s struggle to understand her father is a familiar one, but watching their relationship deteriorate is heart-wrenching. It’s impossible not to root for the tough, sassy author as she builds her own life and finds closure in the aftermath of mother’s death. The memoir is fast-paced and absorbing and features some beautifully rendered reflections on her complicated relationship with her father: “He’s like the clouds racing by. I love watching them, even though I don’t know a thing about clouds.” The book’s climax, after a slow buildup, is shocking without resorting to melodrama. Overall, Donsky handles her family’s story gently, sidestepping sentimentality to reveal honest recollections of her girlhood.
A triumphant story of a woman coming to terms with the loss of her mother and an inspiring, though haunting, testament to the endurance of the human spirit.