A debut memoir details generations of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse that ultimately tears a dysfunctional family apart.
Stein’s grandfather was a nasty alcoholic who raped at least one of his own daughters. Gigi, the author’s mother, was 13 years old when her own mom walked out on the family, leaving her five daughters to fend for themselves against their abusive father. Gigi quickly took up with an older man, Marco Rossi, becoming pregnant at 15. It was a devastating blow to her when her little boy died from a heart defect at 3. She and Marco went on to have three more children before they finally broke up. Next came Henry McCardle. Henry bought a house for Gigi and her young children and added two kids of his own to the household. He and Gigi had three more. Both Marco and Henry were womanizers and heavy drinkers. Marco was a violent drunk and Henry was a sexual predator. While Henry was away on “business trips,” Gigi hit the local bars. It was within this amalgam of siblings, half siblings, and absentee parents that Stein was raised. By the age of 7, the author writes, “I already knew that I had two mothers—a good, comforting one whom I loved, and a mean, foul-mouthed drunk who could withdraw that love without warning.” The eye-opening narrative by Stein (writing under a pseudonym) is riveting. Describing the family code of secrecy and denial, she asserts: “Our family was one in which silences about deeply troubling matters were normal, and indeed required.” Some of the darker family secrets are kept closeted for a major portion of the jaw-dropping memoir. One of these concerns Henry and Gigi’s children and is likely to cause readers confusion. It is a disconcerting absence of information, but it gives readers a sense of the turmoil the author experienced for many decades.
Courageous, heartbreaking, infuriating, and ultimately victorious; a significant contribution to the cycle-of-abuse literature.