A Vermont-based artist and musician chronicles the serpentine saga of her family’s legacy of struggles and abuse in this debut memoir.
With cleareyed, unvarnished prose and dynamic details, Bedi vividly traces her family lineage back to her ancestors’ arrival on American shores as Slavic immigrants “during the first decade of the twentieth century.” But across this ancestral lore are several dark shadows in the form of murder, suicide, and interfamilial abuse. These tragedies shook the Bedi bloodline to its core and soured the author’s youth and adulthood. Through the use of family tree graphics, photographs, official records, newspaper clippings, and her own memories, the author generously shares the story of her paternal grandfather, Eli, who was murdered in 1917, supposedly at the hands of his wife, Flora. Bedi believes the crime was spurred by a love triangle and that Flora’s lover “actually killed Eli.” When Flora was charged with homicide, her children (including the author’s father) were placed in a Vermont orphanage where they grew up in a neglectful, abusive environment. Bedi’s maternal grandfather killed himself over “the loss of the Czar’s Russia” and “the shame” of incestuous affairs. Her father became a gifted machinist while her mother, Laura, born to Russian immigrants, grew up on a farm and was unpredictable as an adult. Unafraid to reveal the truth about her family’s melodrama, Bedi writes candidly about the bewilderment she felt over her parents’ mismatched marriage in 1937, given that her tempestuous mother “clearly was mentally ill and Dad was an abused orphan.” In this melancholy account, she expresses outrage at Laura and “Gram” for allowing a legacy of intergenerational abuse to proliferate within their family for decades. Despite the hardships experienced by her ancestors that infused her worldview, Bedi’s own history in the final chapter is evoked with generous anecdotes about her immense artistic interests in music education even as her aging mother’s mental state deteriorated further. Upon Laura’s death, the author “cried then, not because she was dead but because the chance for her to realize what she had done was dead too.” Though her mother’s cycle of cruelty died with her, Bedi admits to still struggling toward complete forgiveness and some catharsis as an adult survivor of child abuse, and that her own happiness remains a work in progress.
A bittersweet and engrossing literary heirloom filled with family secrets, haunting memories, and striking challenges.