American Daughter

HarperOne. Jan. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780063054332. $27.99. MEMOIR
Plymale has written a harrowing book about the way unhealed intergenerational trauma can corrode a family. Plymale’s mother, Florence, was volatile, broken, and incapable of parenting. She was an addict and suffered from periodic breakdowns that left her institutionalized or in jail. The author never knew the identity of her father; she and her siblings were periodically homeless and always impoverished, in and out of juvenile detention and foster care, where Plymale experienced sexual abuse at the hands of one of her foster parents. When Florence was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in her later years, Plymale began to interview her about both of their childhoods in an effort to understand how and why their lives unfolded as they did. In so doing, she uncovers that Florence was abducted as a child and held captive for 10 days; the details of the trauma she endured at the hands of over a dozen men will leave the reader raw. None of her attackers were held accountable and Florence later developed schizophrenia. Writer Wald helps debut author Plymale tell her story, and Florence’s.
VERDICT In this sharp, heartrending work, Plymale reconciles with the truth of her mother’s life, finding forgiveness, hope, and even pride. Her testimony, while painful to read, is vital.
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