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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Named one of Esquire's "Best Nonfiction Books of 2018"

"Sharp and searching...a potent look at the fraught, painful, and complicated relationship between parents and children, and the mysteries — revelatory, difficult — that can and cannot be solved."
— Boston Globe

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

A very frank and honest memoir. Well worth the read!

A deep and honest account of how family life and dynamics change throughout a persons life. Anya told her story in a way that ached my heart without asking for sympathy. However, I think I was expecting more of an arc and plot within her search for answers so overall it felt a little underwhelming.

A deeply felt and carefully crafted story that proves there are no easy answers to life's problems and no one can be defined in simple terms. Our perspectives may change over time, but the facts have always been there, just waiting for us to be able to see them.

I really appreciate Anya's honest and candid memoir. Life could not have been easy at times, while she was living with an abusive father, an alcoholic mother and then learning about the life and love she didn't know they had after they had passed. It was an emotional and, at times, suspenseful book and I'm sure it was quite therapeutic to the author to document it and have others read it. It sounds awful to say I enjoyed a book with so much heartbreak but I truly did and I hope the author is living happier knowing who her parents truly were.

I first I had a hard time focusing on this memoir, and because of that I didn't finish it until well after it's release. I found the story to be heartbreaking. Also there was quite a bit that hit a little to close to home for me. But I would still recommend it.

Embedded in this memoir are some interesting issues about how children see and know their parents, long-terms relationships, identity, and memory. Because of that, My Dead Parents might be a good book club reading. But as a piece of writing, it comes up short. While not quite stream of consciousness writing, there is a lot of "this happened, and this happened." Brief vignettes, some of them relevant to helping us understand her relationships with and views about her parents, and others not relevant. She should have cut out the latter, and provided more depth about some of the relevant events. About two-thirds of the way through, I was tired of the self-focus and end up skimming the rest of the book, because I wanted to find out what happened to Yurchyshyn's father.

Maybe just not my cup of tea. I wanted more things to happen, fewer things (memories, characterizations) to be merely told to me.

Slower-paced but interesting. The last part was almost a throwaway. Not a page turner though. Abigail Ocala, FL

This is a story of how a 32-year old woman discovered who her parents were, instead of who she thought they were, when cleaning out her mother’s home following her death. Summary: In 2010, finding herself an orphan at age 32, the author takes on the unenviable task of clearing out her parent’s home. It was really her mother’s, her father having been killed in a car crash in the Ukraine back in ’94. The author is of mixed heritage, but the Ukrainian side seems to have been dominant in their household from her father, who was native-born. The house is a complete mess, her mother eventually having succumbed to her alcoholism after years of neglect and heavy drinking. Amongst her effects, the author discovers private love letters and papers written between her parents, and gradually learns that she really knew nothing of her parents. Main Characters: George: Ukrainian by birth, American by naturalisation, he is the dominant figure in the author’s life for all of the wrong reasons. From the name-calling, to barging in to the bathroom while she was showering in order to continue yelling at her, he was a deeply flawed father in relation to her. Anita: The mother, who increasingly found solace in the bottle when the father died. Emotionally absent for her daughter, she liked to tell stories that backed up her belief she was a model parent, but which had no foundation in fact. Anya: The author, struggling for self-redemption, and to understand the gulf between the people she remembers, ad those being revealed through her investigations. Minor Characters: Alexandra: Older by 5 years than the author, she got all the care and attention the author did not, and was always just beyond her reach, a little too old and cool to be seen with her younger sister, and then went to college just as she hit her turbulent puberty years. They knew next to nothing about each other as they grew up, and grew apart. It was Alex that flew to the Ukraine to formally identify her father’s body. Plot: We open with the author telling us both her parents are dead, but she is not necessarily sad about that. Most of the author’s memories of her early family life through to teenager-hood are not pleasant. From an early age, she always perceived herself to be second-best, somehow deficient, and not measuring up to the expectations of her parents, specifically her father. When he was present, he verbally bullied her, psychologically abused her, and emotionally abandoned her. He was absent even when he was present. She felt only relief when he left for his business trips. Her parents were widely travelled, mainly as a result of their careers. Her mother was a senior (volunteer) post holder at the International Sierra Club, her father an investment banker with an internationally-exposed bank. Their house was a treasure trove/junkshop (delete according to taste) of paraphernalia and assorted bric-a-brac, culled from a lifetime of travels, and the author clearly remembers childhood hours whiled away playing with some of these. When Anya finds the letters in her mother’s room, she realises that the parents she remembers are not recognisable as those in the letters, young, passionate, in love. She remembers tension, fights, and her father being away on long trips. Oh, and an Uncle Bob who occasionally came to stay while Dad was away. The first part of the book deals with the author herself, her insecurities, her perceived lack of support/protection from her mother when her father “yelled” at her (which was frequent), her inability to mix, her poor school grades, etc. While this resentment and anger built within her, her relations with her parents deteriorated (increasingly so as she got older and more independent), and of course led to outright rebellion in her teenage years. As a portrait of a dysfunctional family, it could not have been more clear. We are with Anya as she learns of an older brother who pre-deceased her before she was born, and which had never been discussed in the family until her eight year old friend blurted it out. This is a “secret” that has riven the parents. We feel her outrage when she discovers her mother hadn’t “invented her name”, but it was a well-known one. She increasingly felt less and less special. This part allows us to see her parents as Anya saw then when she was a teenager, and it is important to realise this. The relationship is being viewed through a cracked window, and we have to sympathise with the emotionally abused child. As Anya relates her story, bringing us up to the present day, she tells of how the letters inspired her to find out more about these two strangers who brought her into the world, and about following up the suggestion that, maybe, possibly, her father’s death in the Ukraine was more likely murder than an accident. Given the seeding the author does in the first part, the latter part of the book allows us to discover along with her the “hidden life” her parents had, and realises that there was more going on than she as a child realised. Yes, they were poor parents, yes, there was a serious level of non-physical abuse, but through her conversations and connections she begins to find a way to forgive and understand, and we too come to sympathise with them to a certain extent. The author does some great investigative work in the Ukraine, considering the circumstances and the amount of time elapsed. I had read about the level of corruption and rampant inflation in the country post the Soviet era, and the rise of criminality there. What I Liked: The honesty of the writer (though a little TOO honest in some parts!) The structure of the book is well-constructed The detective story element was well written, and absorbing. What I Didn’t Like: While the groundwork was needed, there was a little too much unnecessary information thrown in, which did not add to the overall story. Some of the choices the author made had nothing to do with her upbringing e.g. deciding to have sex at sixteen. The overwhelming self-absorption of the teenage author (but I suppose we all went through a phase of that!). Overall: This is a good read. Your heart goes out to the poor damaged child, who needed better parents than she got. As parents, they were appalling people, and the book is an object lesson in dysfunctional families. It is a well-written book, about a young woman coming to terms with loss, grieving for a family she never really had, but also for the loss of her parents, whom she only now finally begins to comprehend, and slowly to forgive. Acknowledgements: Thank you to Penguin First To Read and the author for giving me a free copy of this book, in return for an honest and objective review.

This book, albeit deeply depressing at times, was an interesting read. It is fascinating to think about how much we really don't know about other people, including our parents, and I enjoyed following along on the journey as Anya discovered them. The writing was genuine and heartbreaking, and I was very much absorbed in the story. However, it felt like the whole book was building you up to some sort of revelation that never really came. All in all, I enjoyed the book and think Anya Yurchyshyn is a very talented writer.

I enjoyed what I was able to read of this book, but ran out of time to finish it. Definitely a book I would pick up to finish reading when the time allotted isn't limited. I thought the character progression and plot line were moving along well and I was intrigued with where the story was going. I look forward to finishing it.

What stood out for me the most was the writing. The details and descriptions are striking, the author's honesty genuine. The themes covered and questions raised, especially that of parent/child relationship, are real and relatable. (Acceptance as a form of love—oomph!) The closure that the ending provides is satisfying; the sense of peace stands out. Overall, it was a great read.

This memoir just was not for me. I tried several times to get into it, but I never got invested. In the 100 pages I did read, it seemed to be a retelling of events at the superficial level. There were certain details (usually about irrelevant people or events) that served as unintentional distractions. I found myself either wanting to know more or stopping and asking myself why those details/events were included. The narrative also jumped around a lot from scene to scene and not necessarily chronologically and it was difficult for me to immerse myself in the scenes themselves. It seemed that each scene could be more fully developed maybe with more sensory details as well as more introspection from the author. I kept wanting the scenes to slow down, for the author to really take her time, show us what she saw/experienced in those moments but also what she was experiencing in the present as a result.

This was an interesting memoir, as Anya's parents certainly had many secrets that she was able to explore and uncover after their deaths. I enjoyed reading about the main characters emotional journey throughout the discovery process and her ultimate reconciliation between the parents she knew and the people they were before they became her parents.

Such a heartbreaking tale. I thought it was very well written and will definitely be recommending this book.

I thought this book was well written overall. It’s a heartbreaking story of a family. I had a harder time with the portion written of her time investigating her father’s death abroad - perhaps the frenetic was if it is a representation of what that time was like.

An interesting and intriguing memoir/autobiography about Anya Yurchyshyn's parents and her looking into their past. It's definitely an well written memoir and I certainly enjoyed her journey.

The author was raised by an absentee, yet demanding father and an alcoholic mother. When her father passes away in a car accident, her mother spirals even further into her addiction and eventually passes away. When cleaning up her mother’s apartment, she finds letters and journals that teach her about what life was like before she was born. From there, embarks on a journey of learning more and more her parents and the family that came before them. Losing a parent is difficult. Losing both is worse. But can there be redemption? This book shows that there can be. This was a wonderful book, and I fully recommend it.

This memoir/autobiography was well written, and intriguing. However, I just couldn't totally get in to it. Though if you're interested in this type of history, then this could definitely be the book for you.

Anya’s search for who her parents were outside of her own lens as their daughter was both well-written and fascinating. Her journey to get to know her parents after their deaths leads to a discovery that I think many children should take to heart - that parents have lives outside of being parents and that as children, we often don’t see this until we grow older. Unfortunately for Anya, her parents died before she could come to this realization, but this memoir is a beautiful acknowledgement of her respect for her parents despite the truly harsh and tragic circumstances surrounding her family. I liked that Anya started the book with her own perceptions of her parents within the bubble of her life - her verbally abusive and absent father, her mother’s spiral into alcoholism, and how Anya felt that her own periods of low self esteem and teenage rebellion were linked to poor parenting. This made it feel like we, the readers, were discovering Anita and George right alongside Anya as she tirelessly searched for the realities of her parents’ relationship and lives after their deaths. Seeing Anya start to put aside some of her anger and frustration and come to understand why her parents made the choices they did made it easier to sympathize as a reader. I would have liked to know more about the history of Ukraine and the corruption surrounding her father’s business and his suspicious death - sometimes it felt like these parts were written for readers who already knew a lot about Ukraine’s history. However, the title is “My Dead Parents” not “The Suspicious Death of My Father” or something like that. I appreciated this story for what it was : a daughter dealing with grief and coming to know her parents as real people, not just a mom and dad.

This was really well written and the depth of the characters kept me coming back. I wanted to scream at the parents many times and I applaud Anya for sharing such an honest portyal of her family.

This memoir encompasses the author's memories of her parents- first expressed from a child's perspective and then as a adult able to reflect on their lives separately from her own. The book reflects the author's maturing stance towards her parents which unfortunately came after their deaths. Despite her rants & anger towards her father and mother, the following quote captures the essence of the writings- "I realized that wanting to know them better was the way I expressed and dealt with my grief." It was interesting to read the author's developmental emotional evolution and (specifically for me) to learn a little bit about the Ukraine. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

As children, we rarely see our parents as people - in particular, as the young, hopeful people they were before we were born. Anya Yurchyshyn lost both of her parents by the time she was 32, and discovered while reading their old letters that she really didn't know them as people at all. The father who berated her and the mother who descended into alcoholism turn out to be much more complicated than Anya could have imagined. The first half of the book chronicles her childhood experience of her parents, and I found this part harder to read because, frankly, adolescent Anya sounds like she was an awful pain, though I give the author credit for her unflinching look at her teenaged self. I was much more interested when Anya began reading the letters, talking to her parents' friends and relatives, and learning to see her late parents as real people and to discover what motivated them and what hurt them. This memoir is well worth reading.

Good book. Anya tells about her difficulties growing up, loosing both parents and then learning about her parents while cleaning out her parents house. Very eye opening, and makes me wonder if I really know my parents!

This memoir begins with the author's experience growing up with her parents and her admitted lack of respect for them. She shows an unflattering part of herself and her parents that makes the first part of the book extremely compelling. After losing both of her parents by the age of 32, she begins to find letters written by her father that show a side of him she's never seen. What follows is a deep dive into her parents history to reconstruct their lives through letters written by them, interviews with anyone who knew them, and traveling around the country and the world to walk in their steps and try to understand the tragedy of their young lives. I received an advance copy from Penguin's First to read program, and some pages were missing from the copy I read for review. The final copy on sale 3/27 is not identical to the arc, so that may have made a difference in how much I enjoyed the book. I appreciated the first section more than rest of the book.

A deep dive into your parents' relationship and history can be a tough sell, but Yurchyshyn makes this potentially dry story interesting and readable. The overarching theme of her investigation into her parents' lives is the difficulty in seeing one's parents as people in their own right instead of just Mom and Dad. The book feels a little disorganized, since we follow Yurchyshyn in chronological order through her childhood, her parents' respective deaths, her discovery of the letters they wrote to one another among her mom's effects, and then her investigation into what her parents were like before she came along. I understand why the book was organized this way but it makes for some jarring shifts in tone. But the writing is so beautiful and the emotional insights so honest and self-effacing that it was hard not to be charmed by and sympathetic to her as a narrator.

Anya's childhood in Boston was anything but pleasant. Her father, George traveled constantly, living in foreign countries but she remembers him primarily distant and abusive before his death in the Ukraine by car accident. Her mother, Anita, an alcoholic who turned the notch up on her use after her husband's death, seemed indifferent to her children at best, resentful and demeaning as only some of the worst. Following Anita's death, Anya takes on the task of going through her mother's home.....a home that she finds holds numerous surprises.  In life, her parents were a mystery, their home filled with items from countries around the world in which they had visited. But together they fought constantly and Anya could never understand why they were together in the first place. As she goes through each room, each drawer, each closet, more pieces of who George and Anita are revealed. A couple who, at one time, loved each other deeply, who suffered terribly the loss of a son before Anya was born, and who died alone.  Anya's story is beautifully written and makes one mindful of the fact that our parents are individual people too....that they make mistakes, they love, the hurt and they try in the only ways that they know how. The journey begun in her mother's home leads Anya to explore further her family's history in Wales and the Ukraine, creating connections that she didn't even know existed. And learning that her father's death may have been no accident.  Her story is touching and delineates the connection between everyone's past and present as our parents' children.

What an amazing well written and such a heart wrenching story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The author’s Ukrainian father, a banker, died in a car accident in 1994; her mother, once the volunteer International Vice President of the Sierra Club, died of complications of alcoholism in 2010. When she thought back to her parents’ life together, she remembered photos and souvenirs they brought back from her father’s business travels in Africa and the Middle East. But after their deaths, when she read their early love letters, she felt like they’d been strangers. “I didn’t know my parents [George and Anita] at all. I didn’t understand them, either. And instead of pushing them away as I’d planned, I brought them closer, hoping I could learn who they were and what had happened to their love.” I enjoyed the first half well enough, but once she’s narrated up to her mother’s death it feels like the story has been told and there’s no point in sticking around for more (including a trip to the Ukraine to try to substantiate conspiracy theories about her father’s death). It’s also hard to relate to her absence of grief – even though her father was physically and emotionally abusive and her mother drank herself to death. Eventually she concludes, “it didn’t matter if I loved them or not. They were part of me, either way.” As a family memoir or ‘bereavement’ memoir, this is unlikely to stick with me. It reminded me somewhat of The Fact of a Body – childhood abuse, a dead brother she only learned about later, and the search for the truth about the past.

This book reached into my soul and touched parts I would rather forget existed. Not necessarily as a means of trying to explain my own dysfunctional parents, but as a guide for my own children to help explain to them why I am the way that I am. Much like Anya's parents, there are just some life experiences you have that you never discuss with your children, but significantly alter who and how you are with them. I loved Anya's raw honesty that she was not saddened by either of her parents' deaths, but felt relief instead. The "flaws" she allows herself and her parents to have make this autobiography truly remarkable and very readable as well as likeable. The quest she goes on in order to find her parents, despite their being dead, is so intriguing, especially when we arguably live among the most self-absorbed generations that has thus far existed. This book just begs you to question your life and your relationships---how well do you really know anyone? And are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to truly know, love, and accept someone and their flaws? I cannot fathom what it be like to wrestle with a parent's death in the way Anya did with her father: was it an accident or was he murdered? The conclusion she ultimately reached had to be painful and maddening. One can just feel the raw emotion from Anya while reading the part of the book about investigating her father's death, and eventually finding peace with him and their tumultuous relationship. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. This book is so honest and well-written and structured, it honestly left me wishing I had met her parents.

Anya Yurchyshyn has written the book I aspired to write. Losing parents as a child is not only devastating but can also be life-altering years after the loss. Yurchyshyn lost her father as a teenager and her mother as a young adult, and after their passing she discovers there is so much more about her parents than she ever knew, including the circumstances surrounding her father's sudden and tragic death. It can be very traumatic to learn your parents weren't who you thought they were and I admire Yurchyshyn's courage in sharing those revelations with the world. My Dead Parents reveals to readers the depth and consequences of family secrets.

This book was incredibly moving and haunting. As a child or young adult, it is difficult to understand that parents are actually people too. Although Anya had a challenging childhood and did not receive the love and attention she needed from her parents, she came to understand them better after clearing out her mother's possessions. It can be difficult to see that things are not always the way they appear. Through Anya's research following the death of both parents, she was able to discover who her parents really were and how their lives were shaped. Although it could never undo the damage of her past, it allowed her to see the heartbreak and difficulty of her parents lives. The honesty of Anya's words and feelings was captivating and very moving. My Dead Parents is definitely worth a read, especially if you don't know much about who your parents were as people and before they had children.

This is not the book I thought it was going to be. I expected more about what the author's father accomplished amidst the corruption of Ukraine, or the optimism that made her mother volunteer to work nearly full-time for the Sierra Club. Most of the book was devoted to Yurshyshyn’s childhood, though, and the failings of Anita and George as parents. At times, there was TMI. I didn’t care to read about when the author lost her virginity or when her mother soiled herself because she was drunk, and I don’t think it added to my understanding of their characters. I do love memoirs, but this was not the book for me.

This is an amazing story. Anya learns about her parents as people. She finds out what kind of people they were before having children. She learns about their struggles. She finds out what made them who they were. Children usually only know their parents as the parents and not people. This is such a unique and emotional story. She learns who her parents were by their own account. You never really know someone, but especially in certain relationships. She also has the original opportunity to see things from many different perspectives. She has the chance to look back on her life with a fresh set of eyes. It is interesting as she learns so much that she didn't know. This book is awesome! I couldn't put it down. I had to keep reading to find out what happens next. I wanted to know what had happened to them, and I wanted to see how the things she learned would impact her. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!

I thought Yurchyshyn's memoir was both enthralling and moving. She writes with honesty and candidness about her experience of her parents growing up and of discovering who her parents who as people after their deaths. The earlier chapters about her rough childhood are interesting but heartbreaking, she was by no means an easy, happy child but it seems she didn't receive the kind of love and support she needed. Her parents come off as inept, neglectful, and at times mean in these chapters but her investigation after their deaths, into who they were outside of parenthood reveals a much more nuanced picture of two intelligent, passionate people, who loved each other and lived with a lot pain. Joining Yurchyshyn as she journeys to learn about her parents and come to peace with who they were as both parents and people was definitely worthwhile.

Thank you to First to Read for my free galley copy of My Dead Parents; I greatly appreciate it. I enjoyed Anya Yuchyshyn's memoir, which follows her through her journey of getting to know her parents after both of their deaths. After Anya's mother passes away, in part due to her alcoholism, Anya begins going through her parents' things and discovers journals, photographs, and love letters that she had never seen, containing information that was new to her. Her father had passed away several years prior in a mysterious accident in his home country of Ukraine. Throughout her journey, Anya reflects that children never truly understand their parents as people and discusses how people can change once they become parents. Her and her parents' story demonstrates how experiences shape who we are and who we become. This was incredibly thought-provoking and insightful to me. I particularly enjoyed the last section of the book where Anya travels to Ukraine to learn more about her father, his culture, and the country he loved and worked for during the last parts of his life. I was hooked and engaged the entire time she describes the individuals she spoke to and the investigation she and her father's friends undertook to get to the bottom of the source of his fatal car accident. A well-written, insightful, and engaging memoir describing the parent-child relationship and realizing that parents are people too, with their own lives, interests, loves, and flaws.

Anya, the author starts with revealing that her mother has died, then also her father quite a while before. She's an orphan at 32, but she isn't necessarily sad that her parents have both passed away. Her mother was an alcoholic, and her father was a cruel man for whom nothing was ever good enough. Anya describes her childhood and then in the process of cleaning out her mother's house, starts to realize that she didn't know either of her parents as people. A very in-depth look at finding out who your parents are after they are gone. Can you separate them from being your parents to just being people you might run into at a dinner party? The only thing I didn't like about this ARC was that pictures on my Sony E-reader take forever to load. Maybe 2-3 minutes which throws off the flow of the story. If you could leave out the pictures or move them all to the end, it would be much appreciated.

Fascinating tale of angry young woman who finds surprising love letters from her parents while cleaning up her recently deceased mother’s hoarded house. She had long ago decided her parents hated one another since they lived apart and seemed to barely tolerate one another. Her father raged and her mother died an alcoholic. How could these love letters exist? She embarks upon a bit of a detective hunt to learn about her parents as people and learns about herself in the process. Well-written and engaging.

This memoir was beautifully written and had me glued to the pages, wanting to know more about these fascinating people. Anya lived a very interesting life, although very tragic at times. I loved getting to know her parents and that she took us along for the ride as she strives to discover who her parents truely were before she knew them. And the added mystery of what happened to her father made me refuse to book the down, dying to know to truth of what, or who, was responsible for his death. The ending was sweet and I feel satisfied and content with her story. This book is perfect for those who love mystery, travel, and those I Interested in what happened after the fall of the USSR and the Ukraine. I’m going to be recommending this to everyone I know, it has a little something for everybody.

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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