Don’t You Ever: My Mother and Her Secret Son

Mary Carter Bishop. Harper, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-240073-4
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bishop takes an honest and raw look at her family in this heartbreaking memoir. While Bishop grew up in a loving home in 1950s central Virginia and never wanted for much, her older, illegitimate half-brother, Ronnie Lee Overstreet, was sent first to a foster home and then to a mental institution. Ronnie was originally introduced to Bishop as a cousin; she learned the truth in 1978 when she was in her 30s after finding a notation on her birth certificate while applying for a passport. She decided to reconnect with him and found him working at a barbershop. She learned that Ronnie had developed in adulthood a rare pituitary disease, acromegaly, which “gradually expanded his jawbone and lengthened his chin by inches.” Bishop digs deep into her own past, exposing class structure (her parents worked as servants on a lush Virginia estate), genteel poverty, self-loathing, and self-doubt in a deeply honest manner. She eventually comes to realize that it was social mores of the time that forced her mother to place Ronnie in a home. Bishop tenderly describes how she became close with her brother, helping to secure finances to pay for his medical treatment until his death in 1991. This powerful tale lays bare the cancer of shame and its often devastating results. (July)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the year when Bishop learned that Ronnie was her brother.

Reviewed on: 05/21/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-256439-9
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-240075-8
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