FADED PICTURES FROM MY BACKYARD: A Memoir

Sue Carswell, Author . Random $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-345-43856-0

In 1968, when Carswell was seven, her father became the executive director of the Albany (N.Y.) Home for Children, formerly known as the Albany Orphan Asylum. The family's backyard abutted the Home's playground, but Carswell and her siblings were forbidden to fraternize with the client children. From that fact, Carswell has spun a thin memoir of her life's "dramatic ups and downs." Ostensibly, the book celebrates Carswell's mother and includes a brief account of artist Bob Wygant, a quasi-orphan at the asylum before and during WWII, but both of these characters are given short shift in favor of the author herself, whose every childish mood and haircut is exhaustively chronicled. Disconcertingly, this is presented largely in age-appropriate prose: "I am nervous. I don't see them. My heart goes thump-thump. It thump-thumps fast"; readers will tire of chapter after chapter of Carswell's self-absorbed childhood reveries (she glosses more quickly over her adolescent and adult life). Though Carswell seems obsessed with orphans, she doesn't include much information on the Home, her mother's life or that of Wygant, whose life isn't relevant to her own or anyone else's, beyond the fact of his former residence at the Home. For most readers, the memoir will seem pointless, though writing it presumably helped the author deal with some emotional childhood issues. Agent, Claudia Cross at William Morris. (On sale Apr. 26)

Reviewed on: 02/28/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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