Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret

Annie s Ghosts A Journey into a Family Secret The Great Michigan Read Michigan Notable Book for A Washington Post Book World s Best Books of MemoirBeth Luxenberg was an only child Or so everyone thought Six months after Beth s

  • Title: Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret
  • Author: Steve Luxenberg
  • ISBN: 9781401310196
  • Page: 157
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Great Michigan Read 2013 14 Michigan Notable Book for 2010 A Washington Post Book World s Best Books of 2009, MemoirBeth Luxenberg was an only child Or so everyone thought Six months after Beth s death, her secret emerged It had a name Annie Steve Luxenberg s mother always told people she was an only child It was a fact that he d grown up with, along with the iThe Great Michigan Read 2013 14 Michigan Notable Book for 2010 A Washington Post Book World s Best Books of 2009, MemoirBeth Luxenberg was an only child Or so everyone thought Six months after Beth s death, her secret emerged It had a name Annie Steve Luxenberg s mother always told people she was an only child It was a fact that he d grown up with, along with the information that some of his relatives were Holocaust survivors However, when his mother was dying, she casually mentioned that she had had a sister she d barely known, who early in life had been put into a mental institution Luxenberg began his researches after his mother s death, discovering the startling fact that his mother had grown up in the same house with this sister, Annie, until her parents sent Annie away to the local psychiatric hospital at the age of 23.Annie would spend the rest of her life shut away in a mental institution, while the family erased any hints that she had ever existed Through interviews and investigative journalism, Luxenberg teases out her story from the web of shame and half truths that had hidden it He also explores the social history of institutions such as Eloise in Detroit, where Annie lived, and the fact that in this era the 40s and 50s , locking up a troubled relative who suffered from depression or other treatable problems was much common than anyone realizes today.

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    712 Comment

    • Abby says:

      I stumbled upon an advance copy of Annie's Ghosts and picked it up thinking my mom might like to read it. Intrigued by some of the blurbs, somehow I started it and found myself carrying it around in search of free moments to read for the next several days--Mom would have to wait her turn. Obviously, family dynamics and hidden, secret things resonate with everyone. Although time does sweep back and forth, even within chapters, the author has done a great job crafting a narrative that even stands [...]

    • Terry says:

      I'm wavering between two and three stars for this book. The author's family past is definitely fascinating--not just for what happens to his aunt, but because they live through enormous moments in world and American history (the turn-of-the-century wave of immigration to America, the early twentieth century prosperity of Detroit, the Jewish diaspora, the Depression, the Holocaust). While a reader shares in Luxenberg's journey of discovery, the reader also shares in his frustrations, which in the [...]

    • Kricket says:

      i just wrote a ridiculously long review and x'd out of it by accident without saving. it is gone and i am lazy. you will never find out what i really think.

    • Louise says:

      Part mystery, part investigative journalism, and part family history, Annie’s Ghosts is about the discovery of family secret. Details of the secret unfolds like a mystery with writing that’s easy to read thanks to Steve Luxenberg’s investigative journalism background.Steve discovers that his mother, who always made the point of telling everyone she was an only child, had a sister that almost no one knew about. Unfortunately, this secret is only unearthed on his mother’s deathbed. With on [...]

    • Claire says:

      Selected as the Great Michigan Read for 2013 and 2014. I read this book over the course of one weekend! I love history especially Michigan history. This book touches on all sorts of subjects from family secrets, Michigan history, mental illness, immigration and discrimination. The book reads like fiction another bonus! A title that is open to all sorts of discussions! Kudos to Detroit native Steve Luxenberg!

    • Megan says:

      I read this book this month as part of my 12/12/12 TBR challenge: 12 books in 12 months that have languished for a year or more in my “TBR” (To Be Read) pile. The bullet on this one is that I’m glad the challenge made me finally read it, for a variety of reasons. It’s thought-provoking and educational (in a good way)tely worth a read if you’re interested in mid-20th century history, the history of medicine, or investigative journalistic techniques.I was first drawn to “Annie’s Ghos [...]

    • Jeanette says:

      I wavered between 2 and 3 stars. 2.5 stars but not rounded up. Because of the way it's told, its length and its voice. It would have been so more compelling if the author's deceased mother would have had some emotional or factual input BEFORE the search. In other words, if she had told the story of what she knew or what she had "forgotten". That she did tell everyone and for long decades that she was an only child, and repeatedly! Well, that was how perceptions in those times could be considered [...]

    • Denise says:

      This is a story of a family with a hidden secret that a mother was hiding from her family about a sister that spent the most of her life in an institution. The sister, Annie, lived at home until she was 21 and then spent the rest of her life institutionalized. The mother's children found out about their hidden aunt not long before their mother died but did not ask her about her sister. After his mother's death then Steve the author tried to piece together the story and why his mother hid this fr [...]

    • Amy Huntley says:

      I was fascinated by this book--and I usually don't enjoy reading non-fiction--let alone feel compelled to turn the pages of it. I wanted to know more about the family circumstances that created a situation where a woman would completely turn her back on her sister. Where she would hide her existence so completely that her own children would be astonished to learn she'd ever existed. But even more compelling was the way Luxenberg brought together an entire society and history (of Michigan and of [...]

    • Weavre says:

      Annies' Ghosts is a beautifully told story, and could have been a great book if it had been about 100 pages shorter. Too often, the gripping, personal narrative was inexplicably interrupted by a dry-as-a-textbook history of Detroit. A better editor might have insisted on cutting that material and focusing on the heart of one family's secret.This story gripped me by the second page, and for a time I thought I'd not be able to put it down until I found myself slogging through Detroit's old cigar [...]

    • Sarah Weathersby says:

      I was immediately intrigued when I read the description of this book. It's part memoir, part mystery, and the other part I'll get to later.The author, Steve Luxenberg, is an investigative journalist for the Washington Post. Shortly before his mother dies, he learns that his mother, Beth Luxenberg, had a sister. He doesn't quite process this new information until he starts to replay in his head the narrative of his mother's life as an only child. Mom always brought it up that she was an only chil [...]

    • Lisa says:

      I first heard about 'Annie's Ghost' from an NPR interview with the author, Steve Luxenberg several months ago. I was captivated by the story he told and his articulateness. I came across the book again while reading a review on an ancestry research board. Everyone seemed to find it a worthwhile read so as an avid fan of genealogy, I reserved it at the library and picked it up this week. The book does not disappoint. The author is an investigative journalist who was left with a family mystery whe [...]

    • Kathryn Bergeron says:

      Summary: Annie Cohen is a mystery. An unknown. His mother's sister who had never been mentioned. Join Luxenberg's journey to discover Annie's story.Why I Read This: I had always wanted to read this, but never had taken the time. Then it became the Great Michigan Read.Review: I loved this book. It's excellent narrative non-fiction. It doesn't just cover memories of Detroit and its Jewish community, Luxenberg looks at Ukrainian history and the holocaust. Most importantly he tracks down the members [...]

    • Beth says:

      This is a detective story, and it’s a mystery, and it’s true. Steve Luxenberg, a journalist, investigates the life of the aunt he never knew or knew of and the secret his mother kept to her dying day.Luxenberg hears it first from his sister. Now adults, both their parents dead, it seems their mother, Beth, had a sister, Annie, who they had never heard of. And so begin the mysteries: Did Beth really have a sister? Why had she kept this secret? What was Annie’s story? So he takes time off wo [...]

    • Lizzie says:

      One of those book length magazine articles, though it kept me reading.His mother always described herself as an only child, but in her last years her kids discovered she’d had a sister who spent most of her life in a county hospital for the insane. Since this son is an investigative reporter he researched the family secret.He got his aunt’s medical records and learned she was diagnosed as both retarded and schizophrenic. Professionals he consulted agreed she was certainly low IQ and clearly [...]

    • Lynn says:

      Annie's Ghost is a book about secrets. The secret that inspires the novel is Annie, a mentally ill/ disabled Aunt that was hidden from family and friends for most of her life. As Luxenberg investigates Annie's life and the extent to which her life was hidden, he uncovers multiple secrets from an era when people kept their mouths shut and did not share the most intimate details of their lives - a polar opposite of the Facebook/Twitter revolution. During this journalistic investigation we learn of [...]

    • Nicole says:

      In Annie’s Ghosts, Steve Luxenberg (a Washington Post journalist) tells of discovering the secret his mother kept from him and his siblings—they had an aunt who had been institutionalized at age 21. As Luxenberg searches for answers about his aunt and why his mother elected to change her entire family history, he discovers just how difficult it is to obtain records from a time when mental illness was a secret shame for families. Even after he gets legal documents giving him the authority to [...]

    • Laura says:

      The cover of this book accurately says it is "equal parts memoir, social history, and riveting detective story" and I would add genealogical study as well. After his mother's death, the author learns that Mom had a sister. This is the story of his search, not only for the story of the sister's life, but the story behind why his mother had kept her sister's existence a secret. Along the way he includes well researched information about many topics, including the history of Detroit, the Holocaust [...]

    • SundayAtDusk says:

      When Steve Luxenberg took a year off from his job as a newspaper editor to investigate and write this book, it appears he left his editor's eye and skills back in the newsroom. For the first 80 or so pages of Annie's Ghost, I literally became dizzy at times reading it. Not only did the author apparently include every question in his head about "if mom had a sister", he also included every thought in his head about the matter. This is not good in a book. A book like that quickly starts sounding m [...]

    • Hybrid Creature (devours books instead of brains) says:

      Non-fiction is not my favorite genre but this book went to the top of my favorite non-fiction list. Admittedly, it is a small list but the fact that it goes to the top should not be ignored.I think one of the reasons that this book worked so well was the detective work that was required to unearth a family secret. In doing so, there was a combination of drama, research, historical facts and first hand personal accounts.I am a bit of a history nerd and learning more about the history of asylums w [...]

    • Nan says:

      My friend Shannon recommended this book to me after learning that I've begun a research project into my family history. It was a great recommendation. As a writer, it showed me possible ways to explore what I'm doing, but as a reader, it was a stunning, heartbreaking story.I want to write a longer review, but I don't know that I can right now. As I said, this book spoke to me as a researcher. But more than that, it spoke to me as the daughter of a woman that was institutionalized for bipolar dis [...]

    • Lisa says:

      "Annie's Ghosts" by Steve Luxenberg is a fairly lengthy but enjoyable historical memoir. A family secret is discovered which shakes the entire Luxenberg sibling world. Through Steve's detailed family research additional family secrets are discovered. This memoir takes us through many decades and several generations of family and friends that have had contact with Steve's mother throughout her life. We not only explore Steve's family, but also explore war and Jew extermination and how this affect [...]

    • Patrick says:

      A journalist friend back in Michigan was forming a book discussion group at her workplace and she had selected Annie's Ghosts as the first book for the group. It was a fascinating look at how families keep secrets (something which might have been more prevalent and done more effectively pre-internet days) as well as how inhumanely the mentally ill were once treated. The book resonated with me on a couple of levels as I have family members with mental health issues and I know so very little about [...]

    • Christina says:

      An interesting book with lots to explore. The author's mother had a handicapped sister she later disavowed and hid from everyone in her life, claiming she was raised as an only child. The book itself wasn't very satisfying because though the author researched and looked into everything, there just wasn't a lot he found out about the missing sister and he was never able to really understand why his mother hid her sister's existence. Nonfiction isn't always easy to conclude.

    • Almeta says:

      I read it through to the end because of some of my interests.Interesting to genealogists. Interesting to potential journalists. Interesting to Holocaust memoirists. Interesting to Michigan nostalgists. Interesting to mental health historians.But as a whole, I personally just can’t think of anyone who would be interested.

    • Mavelyn says:

      Memoirs, being true stories of actual people's lives, always intrigue me. To be able to glimpse into the history of a person is such a raw experience. When the past recalls secrets that have been buried over time, the story is even more fascinating. Steve Luxenberg reveals a family secret that was hidden his entire life, and how he ultimately brought to life the story of his Aunt Annie.

    • Karen says:

      Not my favorite, but interesting I guess because of the area in MI in which it took place. I felt as if this could have been better told as a tight article in Vanity Fair than as this book length. And are the mentally ill any better off today than Annie? Not sure

    • Shannon A says:

      "Secrets, I've discovered, have a way of working themselves free of their keepers." One of my favorite true & local mysteries.Steve remembers his mom always saying that she was an only child, but that changes with a single phone call in April of 1995.

    • Cynthia Sillitoe says:

      Fascinating, but a bit overwhelming in its detail.

    • Jacquelin says:

      A great story and storyteller with just the right amount of supportive history mixed in. Although this isn't a typical page-turner, I couldn't put it down.

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