Monday, August 23, 2010

Annie's Ghosts

One of the categories for the book challenge is book with ghosts or psychics. I chose Annie's Ghosts as a different type of ghost: those that reside in our family histories, the ghosts of the past.

Author Steve Luxenberg found out, at the end of his mother's life, that she wasn't an only child like she'd always said she was. She'd obviously kept the secret for a reason so Luxenberg didn't question his mother. But, after her death, he wanted to know what happened to Annie, the aunt he never knew. The book is the story of tracking down Annie and guessing why his mother never told anyone about her sister.

Annie had been committed to a mental hospital when she was 21, which made it even harder for Luxenberg to beleive since Annie had been part of her sister's life for 20 years. The book is several different things: a memoir of the author's family, a mystery of what happened to Annie, and a history of mental health resources in the 20th century.

In the process of finding Annie, Luxenberg uncovered other, totally unexpected, family secrets. He also told the story of an aunt who escaped the Nazis in WWII. I liked hearing the family's history and Luxenberg's reaction to it.

This was a really fascinating read. I really was interested in the changes in the mental health world. Luxenberg's mother kept her sister a secret because of the shame involved. Annie and others were locked up and forgotten about. Luxenberg had a difficult time tracing Annie because even on paper she was lost. While Luxenberg was able to uncover a great deal of information, the book shows how history is lost over time.


  1. how sad that people felt compelled to hide a family member with mental illness. As much as there is still a stigma today, it is good to see how far we have come in terms of mental health resources.

  2. this looks really interesting!! thanks for sharing.