In this sequel to the acclaimed Blackbird (2000), Lauck continues her disquieting, provocative memoir of a struggle to survive family treachery, abuse, and tragedy.
She picks up her story in 1975, when 11-year-old Jennifer and older brother Bryan are rescued by relatives from their cruel and capricious stepmother, Deb. Jennifer is sent to live with their dead father’s younger sister Peggy and her husband Dick in Black Sparks, Nevada. Aunt Peggy is a tightly wound woman subject to bursts of searing anger; Uncle Dick is a mean-spirited bully. Bryan, who has been taken in by Uncle Leonard and his wife Sylvia, an equally loathsome couple, now lives with them in Oklahoma. Jennifer tries to adjust to her new situation, as she helps out with baby Kimmy and does chores, but finds life little easier with Peggy and Dick than it was with Deb. The family moves to Washington State, where adolescent Jennifer finds her social life frequently limited by rigid strictures on socializing and by excessive work demands. She must call Dick Dad, and Peggy Mom, because they have officially adopted her. At the court hearing they promised to save Jennifer’s Social Security benefits so she could go to college, but when she graduates from high school, she learns they haven’t. She works two jobs while attending the local community college and moves out as soon as she can. But, despite her growing independence, a brief marriage, and a successful career as a journalist, she continues to be distressed by her troubled relationship with Bryan, who once claimed she made sexual advances to him. He enters a seminary, drops out, enrolls in college and then in 1984 commits suicide. By 2000, though happily remarried, Lauck decides to learn why Bryan killed himself, and in the search finds answers that explain and comfort.
A perfectly pitched tale of survival and the courage to move on.