FINDING ANNIE FARRELL: A Family Memoir

Beth Harpaz, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-30271-9

Harpaz was 22 and her sister Nancy 34 when their mother, Anne Farrell, a manic-depressive alcoholic for decades, died of untreated metastatic breast cancer hours after leaving her filthy, roach-infested Manhattan apartment for the hospital. It would be 20 years (during which Harpaz became an AP reporter, married a criminal attorney and had two sons) before the author would delve into her mother's death, bipolarity and poverty-stricken childhood in rural Maine. The painful journey uncovered many family secrets: Anne's name had once been Lena; in addition to the five Farrell sisters were three brothers: one dead, one mentally challenged and institutionalized, and one still living near where Anne and her sisters had grown up; the Farrell children were fostered out when their alcoholic father neglected them and was sent to prison for failing to support them; their father may have tried to kill both his wife (who died in childbirth) and her son by her first marriage and may have met with foul play himself; Anne might have been sexually abused by her father; and Harpaz's father, a highly decorated WWII veteran, was a womanizer. Harpaz's intensive research, however, is never matched by her colloquial, unremarkable narrative, except in the poignant final chapter. Important details get lost while others are repeated tediously. Despite vivid depictions, culled through interviews and research, of Maine, Depression-era life and the worlds in which Farrell lived, Harpaz never comes alive in the narrative. Photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/08/2003
Release date: 11/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 294 pages - 978-0-312-28126-7
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