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Mandel's account of being her parents' "replacement child" following the death of an older sister she never knew.

On the morning of January 22, 1952, American Airlines flight 6780 crashed into the home in Elizabeth, N.J., where Mandel's parents resided with their two daughters. In addition to killing all 22 passengers and the captain, the accident left the family’s youngest child, 2-year-old Linda, terribly burned, while her 7-year-old sister, Donna, perished in the fire. Former corporate marketing director Mandel reflects on her parents' ensuing grief, guilt and their pervasive sense of loss that, years later, prompted them to have another child: the author. She grew up with constant reminders of the devastating crash, not the least of which were her sister's disfiguring injuries that required innumerable reconstructive surgeries. The narrative moves between time periods as Mandel conjures events on the day of the accident and in the years between the crash and her birth, vignettes from Mandel's childhood and her adult life (including three failed marriages), and imagined scenes between her parents. Describing her mother and father's decision to have another baby, she writes, "the prescription, then, for their own survival was a child conceived to heal the family." Mandel details her perception of her parents' motivation and her conflicted feelings, including resentment and gratitude, about the results of their choice. Most chapters are one to four pages, and the constant cutting between years feels choppy and distracting, but Mandel's story is compelling, and the emotional wreckage in her own life is crystal clear.

Disjointed but dramatic and resonant.

Pub Date: March 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1580054768
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2013


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