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Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family…
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Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret (edition 2009)

by Steve Luxenberg

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42412136,875 (3.85)64
Member:akblanchard
Title:Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret
Authors:Steve Luxenberg
Info:Hyperion (2009), Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Books I've Read
Rating:****
Tags:non-fiction

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Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg

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Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
More like 4 1/2 stars. Fantastic book. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
This is a detective story, and it’s a mystery, and it’s true. Steve Luxenberg, a journalist, investigates the life of the aunt he never knew or knew of and the secret his mother kept to her dying day.

Luxenberg hears it first from his sister. Now adults, both their parents dead, it seems their mother, Beth, had a sister, Annie, who they had never heard of. And so begin the mysteries: Did Beth really have a sister? Why had she kept this secret? What was Annie’s story?

So he takes time off work at the WASHINGTON POST to investigate. He lays it out in chronological order, and the reader follows as he learns that, yes, Beth did have a sister named Annie who lived in an insane asylum in Detroit for more than 30 years until her death. And they never knew. But who did? Why was Annie left there, and why didn’t Beth want anyone to know?

ANNIE’S GHOSTS is so interesting, even mesmerizing. I’m glad I read it and only wish I had when it was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2009. ( )
  techeditor | Sep 14, 2017 |
More like 4 1/2 stars. Fantastic book. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
One of those book length magazine articles, though it kept me reading.
His mother always described herself as an only child, but in her last years her kids discovered she’d had a sister who spent most of her life in a county hospital for the insane. Since this son is an investigative reporter he researched the family secret.
He got his aunt’s medical records and learned she was diagnosed as both retarded and schizophrenic. Professionals he consulted agreed she was certainly low IQ and clearly was paranoid and unstable, though “schizophrenic – undifferentiated” isn’t a category used today.
Other documents led him to a cousin who knew both sisters. He’d never known her because she and his mother had a falling out. This woman survived the Holocaust, the only one in her family, with false papers and worked as a translator for the Nazis. After the war she came to the US and got to know his mother. They fell out because she didn’t approve of how his mother treated the sister.
There are a lot of twists and turns, some more interesting than others. He’s shocked by some things that seem mundane, like his grandparents being first cousins. At the end he tries to tie Annie’s fate to the Holocaust somehow, which didn’t really work.
Despite medical records describing how difficult his aunt was, he sometimes seems ashamed and judgmental of his mother’s choice to keep Annie a secret. As the daughter of someone with two siblings who caused a lot of family grief and who distanced herself from them, I'm not shocked by this story or by the mother’s decision. ( )
  piemouth | Feb 16, 2016 |
Annie's Ghosts was a compelling book. While reading about the mental institutions in Michigan and the total lack of rights an accused person had at that time was somewhat depressing, I found that I needed to finish the book. Seeing the concept of a voice for Annie and the 5,000 to its conclusion was necessary. ( )
  lkarr | Feb 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
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Dedication
To Mom and Annie, too late to be set free;
to "the 5,000," who still might be;
and to Mary Jo, who stands alone
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The secret emerged, without warning or provocation, on an ordinary April afternoon in 1995.
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Book description
AMAZON description:

Beth Luxenberg was an only child. Everyone knew it: her grown children, her friends, even people she'd only recently met. So when her secret emerged, her son Steve Luxenberg was bewildered. He was certain that his mother had no siblings, just as he knew that her name was Beth, and that she had raised her children, above all, to tell the truth.

By then, Beth was nearly eighty, and in fragile health. While seeing a new doctor, she had casually mentioned a disabled sister, sent away at age two. For what reason? Was she physically disabled? Mentally ill? The questions were dizzying, the answers out of reach. Beth had said she knew nothing of her sister's fate. Six months after Beth's death in 1999, the secret surfaced once more. This time, it had a name: Annie.

Steve Luxenberg began digging. As he dug, he uncovered more and more. His mother's name wasn't Beth. His aunt hadn't been two when she'd been hospitalized. She'd been twenty-one; his mother had been twenty-three. The sisters had grown up together. Annie had spent the rest of her life in a mental institution, while Beth had set out to hide her sister's existence. Why?

Employing his skills as a journalist while struggling to maintain his empathy as a son, Luxenberg pieces together the story of his mother's motivations, his aunt's unknown life, and the times in which they lived. His search takes him to imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, through the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the hospitals where Annie and many others were lost to memory.

Combining the power of reportage with the intrigue of mystery, Annie's Ghosts explores the nature of self-deception and self-preservation. The result is equal parts memoir, social history, and riveting detective story.
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Traces the author's surprise discovery that his late mother had had a sister who was sent away under mysterious circumstances and never mentioned by the family again, his efforts to research his long-lost aunt's story and whereabouts, and his struggles to understand the secrecy of her existence.… (more)

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Steve Luxenberg chatted with LibraryThing members from Jul 22, 2009 to Aug 8, 2009. Read the chat.

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Hyperion and Voice

2 editions of this book were published by Hyperion and Voice.

Editions: 1401322476, 1401310192

 

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