Picone describes how, decades after her abusive mother cast her out, she attempted to reunite with her estranged family—including her now–Alzheimer’s-stricken mother.
Quiet, sensitive Picone and her four siblings spent their New York City childhood being tormented by Eva, their Colombian-born mother. Yet Picone simultaneously longed for her mother’s love, especially after her father’s death. When a handsome older man asked 17-year-old Picone to marry him following an innocent courtship, Eva coldly cast her daughter out of the family. Picone remained shattered by Eva’s decision for decades, but after her stepfather’s funeral, she strived to reconnect with her family. Unfortunately, her siblings responded with varying degrees of hostility, having long believed Eva’s slanderous (and false) tales about their sister. Picone focused on rebuilding a relationship with her mother, but Alzheimer’s disease was ravaging her, leaving the matriarch increasingly confused and ill while forcing Picone and her combative older sister Julia to share caregiver responsibilities in Eva’s crumbling Queens house. Two additional narratives then unfold: poems describing Picone’s childhood, starting with her earliest memory and circling back to her heart-wrenching abandonment; and the histories of her mother, her Colombian and Italian grandmothers, and Picone’s charming but womanizing father, recounted by Eva in rare moments of lucidity. In this exquisitely beautiful, haunting debut memoir, Picone weaves a personal story of familial alienation together with sharp, unforgettable portraits of Colombian social hierarchy, the American immigrant experience and post–World War II life. The complex dance of family dynamics rises to life, instantly ensnaring readers. Whether it’s Picone arguing with Julia over their mother’s prognosis or Eva’s painful transition from upper-class Colombian to divorced American immigrant, Picone approaches every character—even herself—with resolute compassion and unflinching honesty. Occasionally, the story steers near self-pity in some distressing scenes, but it never fully falls into that trap. Between the story’s rich layers and Picone’s captivating writing style, this memoir and its nuanced characters will carve a place in readers’ minds.
A fascinating, magnificently epic family saga told by a gifted storyteller.