A memoir of considerable elegance, built from the rubble of a childhood, by poet Inez.
In 1938, she was an eight-year-old living in a Catholic orphanage in Brussels. Two men arrived to take her away. The child brimmed with hope: She would meet her parents, whom she envisioned as noble and wealthy; she would get to wear soft underwear instead of the scratchy muslin she had always known. While the underwear was within her grasp—the two mysterious men actually wanted her to be happy, something she hadn’t had much luck with at the orphanage—her biological parents did not meet her on the other side of the Atlantic. Her adoptive parents were boozers and losers; the three grandparents who also occupied her new home were either troubled or frosty. The little girl suffered silences from this lot; they often lasted weeks at a time. Later, she endured Dad’s gropings and ferocious beatings at the hands of her second mother (the first died of cirrhosis). Inez writes with grace, suffused with unease, about being “captive to the household’s fast-shifting outbreaks of gloom and anger.” She found a few moments of childhood joy with an uncle in Cleveland who provided her with the kinds of loopy pleasures a kid deserves. But she was thrown out of the house while in junior high for ludicrously picayune infractions. “I learned to sleep in unlocked parked cars near the railroad station and stored extra clothes, keys, papers, and toiletries, in my book bag,” she recalls. Inez was also despairing enough to throw herself in front of a speeding car. The subsequent search for her biological parents proved emotionally trying.
An account of a life that tugs at your heart as it wows you with its silken clarity.