"1974 was a bad year to go crazy," Virginia Holman writes in this astonishing, beautiful, and painfully funny memoir of life with her schizophrenic mother in a disintegrating decade.
In May 1974, one year after Patty Hearst and her captors robbed Hibernia National Bank, a second kidnapping took place, far from the glare of the headlines. Virginia Holman's mother, in the thrall of her first psychotic episode, believed she'd been inducted into a secret army. On command of the voices in her head, she spirited her two daughters to the family cottage on the Virginia Peninsula, painted the windows black, and set up the house as a field hospital. They remained there for four years, waiting for a war that never came.
At first, it was easy to explain away her mother's symptoms in the context of the changing times -- her mother was viewed as "finding herself" in the spirit of the decade. When challenged about her delusion of the secret war, she invoked the name of Martha Mitchell. When she exhibited florid psychosis, her aunt, influenced by Hollywood's smash hit movie The Exorcist, seriously suggested that an exorcism might be in order. Even after she was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1980s, Holman's mother retained just enough lucidity to appease caseworkers in a system seemingly more concerned with protecting a patient's rights than with halting the progress of a woman's desperately dangerous illness.
Rescuing Patty Hearst is an unflinching account of the dark days during which Holman's family was held hostage by her mother's delusions and the country was beset by the folly of the Watergate era. It is a startling memoir of a daughter's harrowing sojourn in the prison of her mother's mind. And, finally, it lingers as a moving portrait of a young woman defined by her mother's illness -- until at last she rekindles a family love that had lost its way.
Book Magazine - Susan Tekulve
This book is a heartbreaking testament of Holman's struggles to overcome a childhood lost to madness and grief.
Holman's gutsy prose bespeaks her survivor's backbone and hindsight.
Booklist - Vanessa Bush
Barricaded in the cottage, with the windows painted black, Holman struggles over the next three years with adolescent angst and her own unwillingness to believe that her mother is suffering a breakdown. This is a frightening look at the impact of mental instability upon family members and their struggle to acknowledge the illness in order to can get help.
No wonder the portion published last year as Homesickness in DoubleTake won a Pushcart Prize. Holman takes you into life with madness, and the extrication feels only partial. In a word, intense. (starred review)
Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
Devastating, gorgeous, triumphant, and beautifully, beautifully written. This book is a somersault out of a dark and terrifying childhood.
Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls
Bravo to Virginia Holman for writing honestly and bravely of how illness can cripple an entire family. A testament to the power of love and the enduring human spirit, this brilliant memoir should be required reading for everybody.
Jill McCorkle, author of Crash Diet and Final Vinyl Days
This brilliant, frightening memoir deserves a literary shelf all its own. That Virginia Holman survived growing up in the care of a schizophrenic mother with her feet firmly planted and her heart in the right place is miraculous. She skillfully depicts mental illness at its cruelest, without judgment or anger, and ultimately with a lot of acceptance, love, and an endearing sense of humor.
Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and The Solace of Leaving Early Rescuing Patty Hearst is filled with potent images of family life, ghost children, refugees, secret armies. That it's a true story, and that Virginia Holman can write it now with such clarity and generosity, is astonishing.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Sharon Rescuing Patty Hearst Awesome, I can't believe there are others who have gone through and survived the madness put upon them by a parent, I understand. I wish I could talk to Virginia.
Rated of 5
Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman.
Just finished reading this and it was incredible!
I could relate to Gingie, having grown up in a family of 9 with my mother an undiagnosted manic depressive. The story of the author's life... Read More
'Despite its unblinking stare at an excruciatingly painful subject, this is not a dour book. Autobiography of a Face is a book about image, about the tyranny of the image of a beautiful - or even pleasingly average - face. In the end, this tyranny is not so much overthrown as shrugged off.'
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