Summary and book reviews of Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman

Rescuing Patty Hearst

Memories from a Decade Gone Mad

By Virginia Holman

Rescuing Patty Hearst
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2003,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2004,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

"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.

Prologue

Nineteen seventy-four was a bad time to go crazy. The talk in our townhouse complex in Virginia Beach was of the Stockholm Syndrome, the Hearst kidnapping,

Watergate, and what the government had done to Martha Mitchell. "I had Viet Cong hold guns to my head, but I never proposed," spat one Navy man whenever talk turned to the young women in the Stockholm bank robbery who married their captors.

The story I stuck on was Patty's. That spring the famous photo of Patty Hearst appeared. Citizen Tania's image was everywhere, her fine soft face turned tough. The beret; her warrior stance; the way she held the butt of the carbine against her pelvis -- everything about her thrilled me. I studied the photos of Patty and Tania like reverse before and after pictures from a Mary Kay makeover. Was there any princess left in Tania's eyes? I secretly hoped she hadn't been brainwashed and that the kidnapping had been a fortunate excuse to abandon her rich-girl life. I imagined Tania ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What kind of impact do parents have on their children? Do you agree with the notion that the same sex parent of a child has a deeper impact? At what age are children most malleable in terms of the role-modeling of parents? How do these ideas pertain to the characters in the book?

  2. Do you think the main character will be able to grow into the woman she would want to be? How might the experiences with her mother affect her future relationships with both men and women?

  3. What is the message in the book concerning mental illness? Do you believe certain illnesses can be cured, or primarily managed? Have you had any close family members or friends affected by mental illness? If so, how has this touched your own ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
Book Magazine - Susan Tekulve

This book is a heartbreaking testament of Holman's struggles to overcome a childhood lost to madness and grief.

Publisher's Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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)

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

Reader Reviews
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.

thoby155

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 shows just how ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Rescuing Patty Hearst, try these:

  • A Fractured Mind jacket

    A Fractured Mind

    by Robert B. Oxnam

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The harrowing, insightful, and courageous account of a prominent man's struggle with multiple personalities.

  • Autobiography of a Face jacket

    Autobiography of a Face

    by Lucy Grealy

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    '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.'

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  95Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.