ANONYMITY by Susan Bergman


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 An impressionistic memoir by Bergman, a poet, in which she ``outs'' her secretly gay father, dead of AIDS, and makes her own brave and painful decision to stop living a lie. The author grew up as Susan ``Heche,'' one of four children in a picture-perfect, rigidly devout family. Her mother, who'd apparently married beneath her class--for reasons of love-- cherished the illusion of a happy marriage and family in the face of mounting evidence of things seriously amiss. Bergman's father, Don Heche, son of the abusive owner of a bait-and-tackle shop, was a talented musician and a dreamer so detached from reality that he bankrupted his family by chasing one scam after another. He was also homosexual--a fact that he took great trouble to conceal from his wife and children until his terminal illness forced him to reveal it. In 1983, Heche was one of the first people to die of AIDS. The effect on his survivors was devastating: His only son ran his car into a tree and died; Bergman's mother and two sisters floundered in their grief, each in her own self-destructive way. Throughout her narrative, Bergman alone appears stable: marrying a man she loves; giving birth; working as a teacher. But in order to deceive others and protect herself, she says, she enveloped herself in multiple images, one over the other. For as she gradually reveals here, she's keeping her own dangerous secret--as if the sins of the father have been visited on the next generation--a secret that, if disclosed, may well destroy her world. Nevertheless, in the end, the urgent desire to live impels her to reveal it to her husband. Written in a densely poetic style with shifting chronology, Bergman's story sometimes seems overly elliptical--but, by its stunning end, it achieves a brilliant and cutting clarity.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-374-25407-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1993


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