In 1975, 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 psychosis, spirited her two daughters to a cottage on the Virginia Peninsula, painted the windows black, and set up the house as a MASH unit for a secret war. A war that never came. The family -- captive to her mother's schizophrenia and a legal system that refused to intervene -- remained there for more than three years.
"What sets this book apart," the Hartford Courant observed, "is Virginia's voice...brave, smart, tough." Reviewers nationwide have praised Holman's "riveting," "endearing," and "wryly humorous" story of a young girl caught in the whirlwind of madness -- a girl who chooses a brainwashed heiress as her role model. Holman's memoir vividly and brilliantly evokes the interior worlds of the sane and the insane and the delicate membrane in between. An essential exploration of identity, captivity, and love, Rescuing Patty Hearst will inspire readers' faith in the resilience of one family's spirit to survive and thrive even in the direst of circumstances.
One year after the Patty Hearst kidnapping fiasco, in 1975, Holman's mother, Molly, kidnapped her children (who were then ages eight and one) and brought them to live in the family's tiny cottage in Virginia. In her disturbing but luminous memoir of her mother's slow descent into schizophrenia, Holman writes, "My mother believed she had been inducted into a secret army. My mother, my baby sister, Emma, and I were foot soldiers entrusted with setting up a field hospital. We lived in that cottage for over three years." This twisted adventure begins with mother and daughter sanitizing the "hospital" with cut-up underwear soaked in ammonia and painting the cabin's windows black. When curious relatives drop by, Molly (lapsing into an unfamiliar British accent) warns her girls to keep mum: "You cannot talk about the secret war.... Your government has asked you to help. You will do what I say." The family's nightmare unfolds slowly, as Molly's mask of sanity becomes increasingly less convincing to friends and family. Holman's depiction of her young self "feeling trapped behind thick walls of glass" is hair-raisingly poignant. Of course she knows something isn't right with her mother, but years pass before the other adults in her life (including her father) provide a language for speaking about the unspeakable. Idealists should be forewarned: this unforgettable memoir doesn't have a rosy ending. However, Holman's gutsy prose bespeaks her survivor's backbone and hindsight.
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Rescuing Patty Hearst
Beautiful telling of a nightmare. Exhausting account of father and children living in isolation and pain due to a mother's psyche condition being diagnosed much too late. The reader waits with bated breath to read of the author's triumph in attaining a "normal" life. A great read.