RESCUING PATTY HEARST: Memories from a Decade Gone Bad

Virginia Holman, Author . Simon & Schuster $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2285-3

One year after the Patty Hearst kidnapping fiasco, in 1975, Holman's mother, Molly, kidnapped her children (who were then ages eight and one) and brought them to live in the family's tiny cottage in Virginia. In her disturbing but luminous memoir of her mother's slow descent into schizophrenia, Holman writes, "My mother believed she had been inducted into a secret army. My mother, my baby sister, Emma, and I were foot soldiers entrusted with setting up a field hospital. We lived in that cottage for over three years." This twisted adventure begins with mother and daughter sanitizing the "hospital" with cut-up underwear soaked in ammonia and painting the cabin's windows black. When curious relatives drop by, Molly (lapsing into an unfamiliar British accent) warns her girls to keep mum: "You cannot talk about the secret war.... Your government has asked you to help. You will do what I say." The family's nightmare unfolds slowly, as Molly's mask of sanity becomes increasingly less convincing to friends and family. Holman's depiction of her young self "feeling trapped behind thick walls of glass" is hair-raisingly poignant. Of course she knows something isn't right with her mother, but years pass before the other adults in her life (including her father) provide a language for speaking about the unspeakable. Idealists should be forewarned: this unforgettable memoir doesn't have a rosy ending. However, Holman's gutsy prose bespeaks her survivor's backbone and hindsight. (Mar.)

Forecast:In 2001, a portion of this book appeared in DoubleTake and won a Pushcart Prize. That recognition, along with blurbs from Augusten Burroughs and Jill McCorkle, should attract literary readers interested in the love that forms in dysfunctional families.

Reviewed on: 01/06/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-7432-5549-3
Hardcover - 299 pages - 978-0-7862-5564-1
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7432-5845-6
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