My Dead Parents by Anya Yurchyshyn

My Dead Parents

Anya Yurchyshyn

Part literary thriller, part detective story, My Dead Parents is the account of one woman's relentless quest to solve the tragic and complex mysteries of her past.

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A haunting, unforgettable family story about hidden secrets and a daughter’s journey to understand her parents 

Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous international travels. On their trips to Egypt, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, her mother, Anita, and her father, George, lived an entirely separate life from the one they led as the parents of Anya and her sister – one that Anya never saw. The parents she knew were a brittle, manipulative alcoholic and a short-tempered disciplinarian: people she imagined had never been in love.
When she was sixteen, Anya’s father was killed in a car accident in Ukraine. At thirty-two, she became an orphan when her mother drank herself to death. As she was cleaning out her childhood home, she suddenly discovered a trove of old letters, photographs, and journals hidden in the debris of her mother’s life. These lost documents told a very different story than the one she’d believed to be true – of a forbidden romance; of a loving marriage, and the loss of a child. With these revelations in hand, Anya undertook an investigation, interviewing relatives and family friends, traveling to Wales and Ukraine, and delving deeply into her own difficult history in search of the truth, even uncovering the real circumstances of her father’s death – not an accident, perhaps, but something more sinister.
In this inspiring and unflinchingly honest debut memoir, Anya interrogates her memories of her family and examines what it means to be our parents’ children. What do we inherit, and what can we choose to leave behind? How do we escape the ghosts of someone else’s past? And can we learn to love our parents not as our parents, but simply as people? Universal and personal; heartbreaking and redemptive, My Dead Parents helps us to see why sometimes those who love us best hurt us most.

Advance Galley Reviews

Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for the ARC of My Dead Parents. I love memoirs, however, I did not even like this one. I couldn’t connect with Anya who seemed really disrespectful growing up but at the same time judging her parents. Sure they did plenty wrong but so did she. Because I couldn’t connect or even like the author, I didn’t care about her parents stories one little bit. I felt it was poorly written and a mess of a book. I’m puzzled why it’s rated so high. Some people’s lives are so interesting and deserve to be told, this one would have been better left boxed up in the attic.

My Dead Parents is an interesting memoir that focuses on family dynamics and the realization that children can never completely know their parents. Overall, this was just an okay read for me. Anya's story is tragic yet also cathartic. Reading about her father's verbal and emotional abuse and her mother's descent into alcoholism is depressing, but interspersed with that is hope and love corresponding with Anya's discovery of her parents' past as she goes through letters, journals, and photographs after her mother's death. Aside from seeing how a family can change and grow or fail, Anya's story isn't all that unique, at least not until the ending, where she begins to investigate the truth behind her father's death. Her discoveries about her father are rather shocking and heartbreaking, and this is really the most interesting part of the story. Regardless, My Dead Parents is a fine read, not as tragic and horrible as The Glass Castle, but certainly in the same vein, with some interests insights and reflections on the relationships between children and their parents.

A heartbreaking yet touching story exploring the complexity of parent-child relationship. Anya was able to join the missing pieces of her intricate family puzzle, unfortunately it was after their passing. Unearthing pain and sorrow along with brutal facts her journey was emotional and healing. The distance and resentment towards her parents was mended by allowing herself to get to know her parents from an entirely different light. Anyone suffering the loss of both parents will be able to relate to Anya's quest and discovering of the known and unknown with greater clarity. Bittersweet story, quite affecting. Wonderful intimate expression of dealing with grief.

My Dead Parents begins with the story of a child who is misunderstood by her parents, but who in turn misunderstands them. Anya not only loses her parents to death but has lost them in life. When she begins to sort through the detritus of her parents’ lives, she loses them again but finds George and Anita. She suffers through the knowledge of what will happen to them as they live through their lives by reading through their letters. In the end she regains her parents but with a new perspective. I thought it was a very interesting read.

Thanks to First to Read for access to a pre-publication galley of My Dead Parents. The first 1/3 of the memoir was difficult to read as Anya describes growing up with her verbally/emotionally abusive father George and her neglectful alcoholic mother Anita. Unsurprisingly, Anya’s dysfunctional upbringing results in her becoming a sullen, challenging teenager who rejects her parents in retaliation for their treatment of her. I initially found it hard to empathize with any of these seriously flawed people. At some point it became clear to me that this was intentional on Anya’s part. It’s hard to empathize with people when you don’t have enough insight into their character to make sense of their destructive actions. While cleaning out her mother’s house after her death, Anya stumbles upon some correspondence between her parents that seems wildly out of character. This is the beginning of Anya’s realization that “It’s hard for children to know their parents, and hard for parents to be themselves around their kids.” Anya doesn’t recognize the two people who engaged in this passionate loving correspondence and decides to talk with her parents’ siblings, friends and coworkers in an attempt to better understand the people her parents once were as well as what led them to become the bitterly unhappy, abusive and neglectful parents she experienced. As she investigates the childhood and early adult experiences of Anita and George, Anya grapples with how to come to terms with the true nature of her parents. Were they fundamentally the people she experienced or were they the people she was coming to know through talks with their siblings, friends and coworkers? Could both realities be true? If she incorporated new views of her parents, would she be denying her own life experience/story? In the end, Anya finds herself able to retroactively change her relationship to her parents. She grieves for all she discovers that George and Anita had lost and also grieves over not having had the parents that she needed. I encourage everyone to take this heart- wrenching journey with Anya.

Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss. The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her mother's drinking became more obvious. The latter part of the book describes the author's journey in search of her parents, reading their love letters and interviewing friends and family to learn their past history. The most intriguing part of the book is when the author travels to the Ukraine to untangle the mystery of her father's death in a car accident. Conflicting reports leave open the possibility that her father's death was not accidental. Learning about post-Soviet Ukrainian history was very interesting to me. As a family history researcher, I also found the author's journey interesting. I received a free ebook from First to Read.

I thank First to Read for allowing me to download this ARC. However I was unable to get a good clean copy downloaded, so will be unable to read and review this book.

I wasn't really sure of what to expect from a book titled My Dead Parents, but honestly it was hard to put down. It was like watching her peel back layers of parents that she only knew in a single dimension, through a child's eyes. After the death of her parents (several years apart), she suddenly began to see them as people. People who tried, failed, and maybe tried again.


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