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Editorial Reviews

It's not hard to become completely engrossed in this strange tale of American familial dysfunction, which features appearances by a schizophrenic mother, an alcoholic cross-dressing father, all manner of Floridian shadiness, and the bizarre condition known as face blindness. What's truly enthralling are the human complexities that Heather Sellers infuses into her memoir. To that end, the book seems to be made of nearly equal parts love and confusion, and then presented as a past viewed through an always accelerating rearview mirror.
Narrator Karen White shows a particular kind of skill here, especially in her ability to ground us in a story that is encompassed by so much chaos. She approaches complicated and distressing content with a calm reflection that is pitch-perfect for the perspective of the piece. White also displays an incredible range as she is able to shift seamlessly from the author's own pondering tone to the gruff Southern roughness of Fred, the author's father.
The book begins and we are flung headlong into an eerie world of the shuttered houses of estranged parents and murky memories constantly trying to be clarified. This generally creepy feeling never subsides, as Sellers struggles to navigate in her uniquely disconcerting reality.
Indeed, without the ability to recognize faces (the main symptom of her rare affliction), the world becomes an ever-disorienting landscape. She pieces her past together like an ornate puzzle, interweaving it with the turbulent present, in which her face recognition problem, her family's mental illness, and her unstable marriage take center stage.
There's also the obvious parallel between the author's face blindness and what emerges to be a kind of life blindness. She does not come to realize that her mother is a schizophrenic until she is middle-aged, even after a childhood of waking up early to track down imagined malicious government operatives and living in a house with nailed-shut windows.
Despite the obvious potential for dramatic situations, it's worth pointing out that what Sellers does best is to remind us that the problems in our lives must first be acknowledged, then improved. She elegantly tackles the subject of coming to terms with her mother and father, coming out as face blind, and divorcing her husband. At one point in the book she writes, “Paranoid Schizophrenia wasn't my address, but for a long time it's where the mail came.” This memoir sees the author making great strides to relocate to a more appropriate “address”, the subtext of which is that we should always be checking in with ourselves to make sure we are doing the same. —Gina Pensiero
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Publisher's Summary

This is an unusual and uncommonly moving family memoir, with a twist that gives new meaning to hindsight, insight, and forgiveness.
Heather Sellers is face-blind - that is, she has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that prevents her from reliably recognizing people’s faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion and anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, and gait. But she sometimes kissed a stranger, thinking he was her boyfriend, or failed to recognize even her own father and mother. She feared she must be crazy.
Yet it was her mother who nailed windows shut and covered them with blankets, made her daughter walk on her knees to spare the carpeting, and had her practice secret words to use in the likely event of abduction. Her father went on weeklong “fishing trips” (aka benders), took in drifters, and wore panty hose and bras under his regular clothes. Heather clung to a barely coherent story of a “normal” childhood in order to survive the one she had.
That fairy tale unraveled two decades later when Heather took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and began to discover the truth about her family and about herself. As she came at last to trust her own perceptions, she learned the gift of perspective: that embracing the past as it is allows us to let it go. She illuminated a deeper truth - that even in the most flawed circumstances, love may be seen and felt.
Heather Sellers is the author of the short-story collection Georgia under Water and three books on writing. A poet, essayist, and frequent contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine, the Sun, and other publications, she teaches English at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
©2010 Heather Sellers (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

“A powerfully moving account of childhood lost and regained.” (Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper’s Wife)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jeanine on 11-24-10

A Very Interesting 'Read'

I, unlike Pamela, could relate to this woman. Having come from a dysfunctional family myself and knowing how I personally made excuses for my parents, I could understand her reasoning.

There is a lot going on with the family dynamics: the lack of physical affection, the lack of understanding about face recognition (I certainly hadn't heard of it until this book brought it to light) and schizophrenia, the belief that there was something wrong with the author and not her parents (she was conditioned to this thinking from an early age), but still under all the dysfunction, the author felt there was unhealthy as it was. As a child, you just don't know any better and you trust your parents. If you're raised to think this is 'normal' behavior, you do question it as you see how other families relate, but you still make excuses for your family. I was not frustrated with the author for her inability to figure things out quickly. I found her journey to discovery rather fascinating. I wish it hadn't taken her such a long time to open up and talk to others about her inability to recognize them, but with any 'affliction' the owner tends to want to hide it and will often go to great lengths not to give themselves away.

I liked the reader. She gave emotion and developed the characters for me and held me captive to the end. I would read books by this author again and I would listen to books read by the narrator. Overall, I give this book the highest marks. It was not a self pitying account, but rather, it was matter of fact and with enough detail to fully give the listener a good picture of life as it was lived by the three main characters: the author, her mother, and her father.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Pamela Harvey on 10-24-10

Frustrating exploration into rare dysfunction

Interesting read, though I became quite angry at the parents of this woman, parents who had no idea what was going on with her face-blindness, nor had enough interest in her to find out. Then I became angry at the author, who went about her life trying to deal with her disability and with her parents (I would have walked away long ago), with the age-old coping mechanism of denial. I was impatient with her as she tried to muster the courage to tell people, and judgmental of her and her comfort within contradiction - married to someone yet not living with him. I guess I just could not imagine going through life with people thinking I was being rude in not recognizing them, or that I was aloof and detached, and I probably would have told anyone and everyone right from the start of any relationship or contact. I couldn't identify with this woman's denial, and with the stress of trying to live that way.

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10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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