One afternoon Steve Luxenberg receives a call from his sister asking if he knew that their mother had a sister. This was news to him, since everyone knew Beth Luxenberg (his mom) was an only child. He never took it up with his mother as she was very fragile at 80 years of age and her health was in rapid decline; shortly after she passed away. Six months after her death in 1999, the secret surfaces again. Yet this time there was a name, Annie. With the consent of his brothers and sister, Steve begins to dig into his mothers past - and talk about having skeletons in your closet.
He soon discovers that his mothers name really isn’t Beth. That yes, there was an aunt who’d been hospitalized most of her adult life in a mental institution and that Beth hid this secret for many decades. In this real life detective story, of sorts, he seeks to find out WHY? Why was Annie kept a secret?
Steve’s search gives you a glimpse into State mental health care institutions, eugenics in the United States, the pressure on families with mentally ill children, as well as he takes you through Depression-era Detroit, the Holocaust and even Vietnam.
Mr. Luxenberg’s writing captured me from the start and I was very intrigued to find out exactly who Annie Cohen was. I was going through all types of emotions from frustration when he would reach a dead end to pure joy when he would discover some new tidbit of information that would help move his search forward. This is a subject that I’ve never really read about so that alone was a page turner for me but I also found it unique that Mr. Luxenberg would constantly have to make the choice between acting as a journalist and the impact that the family secret would have on him as well as his family.
This book is definitely a serious one, but I found it to be very interesting (I definitely learned a thing or two) so I would base my recommendation on that.