Bombs were falling on London and George de St. Jorre sent his boys, John and Maurice, to the country to live with the Linder sisters, whom he had met in his job as a traveling salesman. After a few years with Linders the boys were sent to St. Dominic's Priory described by Maurice as:" like that German POW camp not far from us, two sealed institutions full of alien people in the heart of the English countryside. A breakout from either would be big news."
Unbeknownst to the boys, their mother, Grace, had been institutionalised for mental illness. Most likely, merely post partum depression after the birth of Maurice but in the Dickensian practices of the time, phase one into a descent into hell. Over the next nearly forty years the subject was never discussed with their father.
The one bit of good news in their lives was their father's marriage to Edith Ross, who did her best to fill the role of mother. The calm Edith was a better fit for the father and was an important and caring figure in John's life.
In the style of a private detective, with the page-turning velocity of a good detetctive novel, John sought and discovered fragments of his mother's life that resulted in a reunion in 1975. But there was no fairy-tale ending. Grace was never officially discharged from her last hospital. She did have sleepovers with her sister, had good times with John, but like a prisoner serving a long sentence felt most comfortable within the structure of institutional life.
One can't read this book without examining one's own life: how even a single year of age difference can affect siblings differently: how one child seeks answers in an effort to better understand his life and another chooses to move on, as if the past never exisited.
I regret never having had a conversation with my mother about her life in wartime Casablanca,her marriage to my biological father Thomas Evans, her life in Pittsburgh while I lived with first, my paternal grandparents and then with a loving "foster" family(Myrtle & Bill Parfitt) and those 6 1/2 years until she met and married my father, Neil Gelenter.
If you were adopted, raised by a single parent after a divorce this book will reach the depths of your soul. If not, it will surely touch your heart.