Annie’s Ghosts by Luxenberg
View book: Annie’s Ghosts
Introducing “Annie’s Ghosts: A Riveting Memoir of Family Secrets and Absolution”
Beth Luxenberg, believed to be an only child, held a secret that only came to light after her passing. Unveiling this hidden truth, the discovery of another presence named Annie unfolded.
“Annie’s Ghosts” has received immense praise from readers and authors alike, boasting its remarkable nature. From exploring mental institutions to delving into the depths of the Holocaust, this book takes readers on an emotional journey filled with mysteries, sadness, and joy. Bob Woodward, the distinguished author of “The War Within” and “State of Denial,” describes it as a truly captivating experience that grips readers from the start.
Steve Luxenberg, the author, approaches his family’s concealed history with the diligence of an investigative reporter, the instincts of a mystery writer, and the love of a devoted son. Through his quest to rediscover one forgotten woman, Luxenberg sheds light on the shocking fate of countless Americans who disappeared just a generation ago. Tony Horwitz, praised author of “A Voyage Long and Strange” and “Confederates in the Attic,” commends Luxenberg’s ability to uncover a compelling story that illuminates a dark chapter in America’s treatment of individuals with special needs.
Instantly mesmerizing, “Annie’s Ghosts” is both a riveting detective narrative and an enlightening, albeit heartbreaking, depiction of America’s historical treatment of those with special needs. Deborah Tannen, renowned author of “You Just Don’t Understand” and “You’re Wearing That,” was drawn into the book’s pages moments after picking it up.
Steve Luxenberg goes beyond a mere memoir, pushing the boundaries of journalism with his exploration of personal and communal responses to mental illness. Helen Epstein, author of “Where She Came From” and “Children of the Holocaust,” praises Luxenberg for not only sharing his own personal story but also shedding light on society’s collective reaction to the mentally ill.
Acknowledged for its wisdom and emotional impact, “Annie’s Ghosts” offers a compelling memoir riddled with family secrets and the redemption that follows after death. It strikes a chord with readers, whether it be their own experiences with family mysteries, memories of the Depression, recollections of a vibrant Detroit, haunting images of the Holocaust, or connections with the immigrant journey. The Washington Post describes it as a memoir that will resonate deeply with many, while The Detroit Free Press believes it holds relevance for a wide range of readers.
Annie’s Ghosts: Uncovering a Family Secret and a Forgotten Aunt – Book Review
Annie’s Ghosts is a compelling memoir written by American author and journalist Steve Luxembourg. First published in 2009, the book tells the story of Luxembourg’s shocking discovery that his mother had a sister whom he was completely unaware of until shortly before her death. Drawing on his journalistic skills, Luxembourg embarks on a quest to uncover the identity of this previously unknown aunt.
The Unveiling Revelation
The story begins in 1995 when Luxembourg receives an unexpected call from his sister Sashi. She reveals the astonishing revelation that their mother had a sister. This news comes as a tremendous shock to Luxembourg, as he had believed his whole life that his mother was an only child.
Throughout his childhood, Luxembourg remembers occasions where his mother would confidently state, “I’m an only child” when meeting new people. This recollection further adds to the irony of his mother’s secret sister. However, Luxembourg decides not to confront his mother about this revelation at the time.
His mother, Beth, who is already 78 years old, is battling failing health primarily due to her decades-long heavy smoking habit. Her frequent hospital visits and loss of driving privileges come as surprises to Luxembourg and his siblings. A counselor named Roseanne Settler from Jewish Family Service becomes involved in helping their mother during this time.
The Family Secret
It is Roseanne who first discloses to Sashi the existence of Beth’s long-lost sister. The information they possess suggests that when Beth was four years old, her two-year-younger sister was sent away to an institution. This revelation raises numerous questions for Luxembourg, wondering what kind of institution would have existed in 1921 and if it was common to institutionalize children as young as two.
Despite their curiosity, neither Luxembourg nor his sister confront their mother about this family secret, hoping that she might choose to reveal it on her own. However, as Beth’s health continues to decline, she never brings up her sister.
The Startling Discovery
Six months after Beth’s funeral, Luxembourg receives a letter from a cemetery reminding him to tend to their grandparents’ graves. To his surprise, he discovers a third grave belonging to a woman named Annie. It becomes evident that Annie is the long-lost aunt they had been completely unaware of.
Armed with her name, Luxembourg begins researching his newfound relative. He contacts the Michigan Department of Health and learns that his situation is not uncommon. The caseworker he speaks to reveals that she has assisted around 5,000 families in researching long-lost relatives with mental disabilities.
Through his investigations, Luxembourg gradually uncovers more details about Annie. He discovers that Annie had been institutionalized at the age of 21, while his mother Beth was only 23. Astonishingly, Annie remained in the institution for another 31 years, and Beth never made a single visit.
This revelation triggers a recollection of a time when his own mother was briefly institutionalized for depression after her emphysema diagnosis. Luxembourg remembers the fear in her eyes and her desperate pleas to not remain confined there. Understanding the context of his aunt’s long-term institutionalization and his mother’s guilt, Luxembourg gains new insight into the feelings of confinement his mother experienced during her brief stay in a psychiatric ward.
Annie’s Ghosts is a powerful story that delves into family secrets, mental health, and the impact of guilt. It sheds light on the complexities of familial relationships and the haunting effects they can have across generations.