In his debut memoir, a writer takes readers on a trip through his family’s troubled past, determined to find closure and forgive his dysfunctional parents for the hurt inflicted on him and his siblings.
Boudreau was born in 1956 in Boston, the third of eight kids, all of whom still bear psychological scars from a poverty-stricken, abusive childhood. He begins his story near the end. He and his wife were buying food and supplies for his 81-year old, twice widowed mother, Gert. By this time, only Boudreau and two of his siblings would have anything to do with “Ma.” He entered Gert’s house in Readville (a neighborhood in Boston) and painful, angry memories of a childhood marked by instability and neglect came flooding back: “By the time I reached my eighteenth birthday and enlisted in the air force, we’d easily moved more than seventy-five times,” always leaving in their wake a stack of unpaid bills. The visit serves as a fulcrum for Boudreau’s narrative, which vacillates between past and present as he reviews his life and family relationships. According to the author, his father, George, was “unpredictable, violent, and abusive” while his mother always assumed a posture of helplessness, standing by passively while her husband inflicted his beatings on one child or another. She attempted “to infect us all with her neuroses,” the author recalls. At 15, after a verbal and physical confrontation with his father, Boudreau permanently left home, moving into a Boston commune to live with his older sister, Diane. Plenty of justifiable rage flows from these pages, although it is packaged in articulate prose and wrapped in psychological theory. Some passages describing the author’s parents are very personal and a bit uncomfortable to read. Of his father, he writes: “He always took his full upper and lower dentures out the minute he came home…. He’d wrap them in the snot-filled handkerchief he always kept stuffed in his back pocket.” In this candid and moving book, readers will feel the constant battle between Boudreau’s training in community social psychology and his ever-present baggage of having been raised by emotionally damaged parents.
A brutally honest, engaging account that’s revealing, disturbing, and quite poignant.