cover image Replacement Child: A Memoir

Replacement Child: A Memoir

Judy L. Mandel. Seal, $16 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58005-476-8

In this well-researched tribute to her parents, journalist Mandel explores how a freak accident altered the fate of her family in 1952. What began as a normal January school day ended with the crash of American Airlines Flight 6780 into the Mandel family home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, three miles outside Newark airport. In addition to the oldest Mandel daughter, the pilot and all 22 passengers died that day. Following the recent loss of her parents, the author decides to piece together the event that incinerated one sister, left another sister severely burned, and prompted her conception as a "replacement" child. By cleverly shifting between recent years and the day of the crash, Mandel weaves together chapters of real and imagined scenes building to the inevitable. "I read that replacement children often feel they can never live up to the memory of the dead children. I recognize myself in some of the descriptions of those with this affliction." Without seeking to give a greater significance to the issue, the book grapples with the random forces that shape modern life. The parents who survive and overcome the death of a child emerge as true heroes, celebrating family birthdays and, eventually, becoming grandparents. (Mar.)