Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

Traveling together through books. Join us on our adventures through the books we read

Lindsay’s review

Heartbreaking and hopeful.

“You’re an alcoholic,” grandma would tell me, even when I was very young. “You just haven’t had your first drink.”

Danielle Geller tells her personal story through this heart wrenching and touching memoir. She is trying to find a trace of meaning in her mother’s life of alcohol and men. She is also searching for a sense of self, of family, of belonging. Danielle returns to her deceased mother’s Navajo reservation to piece together her mothers broken life through personal journals, belongings and family stories. Danielle’s mother lived an extremely rough life of alcoholism, men and homelessness. Danielle’s father faced the same demons with alcohol and floated in and out of Danielle’s life. Danielle and her younger sister Eileen were raised mainly by their grandmother.

What a heartbreaking memoir. What this author has lived through is gut wrenching. It is a very tough read. The endless cycle of alcoholism, drugs, poverty, jail and homelessness was heartbreaking. This book is brutally honest, eye-opening and raw. Alcoholism ran deep through their family – every generation filled with anger, frustration and the limitations of alcoholism and drug addiction.

I found similarities to Jesse Thistle’s memoir, From The Ashes, although this was not as polished. The story is powerful and eye-opening but I found the writing lacked flow and was repetitive. Upon reflection I wonder if the choppy writing was the intention of the author as her entire childhood and young adult life was a vicious circle of instability.

The book focus was on Danielle trying to connect with her mother’s past, but I found the relationship between Danielle and her sister Eileen to be most impactful. The vicious circle of drugs and alcohol that kept the sisters from truly bonding and kept Danielle hanging on and hopeful for a different outcome for her sister was gut wrenching. I felt for Danielle.

I imagine the writing of this book would have been therapeutic for the author. I appreciate her honesty in presenting her family struggles to the world and hope this can be helpful to others who may be able to relate to her situation.

As sad as this book is, I found it hopeful. Though Danielle’s hope was crushed time and time again, she never completely lost her longing for a better life for her family and herself.

Brenda’s review

Danielle Geller unravels her family’s troubled lives in this heart-wrenching memoir. After her mother Laureen “Tweety” Lee dies from alcohol withdrawal, she takes her mother’s belongings “packed into eight suitcases” and begins a self-discovery journey. She weaves in her personal story from childhood as she tries to find out more about her mother’s past from Laureen’s departure from a Navajo reservation at age 19.

Danielle Geller shares her dark memories of her childhood with us, being abandoned by her mother and father to their addictions, her journey in finding herself, and finding a way to make peace with her family’s path. Her memoir is beautifully written with her quiet tone however, her story is heavy. A good part of her memoir tells us about her family’s addictions and her troubled relationships with them as she shares with us her struggles with her father and sister’s addictions with alcohol, who come and go from her life as they are drawn into the relentless cycle of addiction. It weighed heavy on me, and I wanted to look away from the story. I would have liked to know more about Danielle Geller’s journey. The beauty in her story is her strength in her caring, quiet words as she carries that weight, her path to self-discovery and healing as she unravels her mother’s destructive path.

I struggled with her writing flow that felt choppy and distant with her telling us her family’s story, and I wanted to feel more connected to her by seeing her story. However, this is Danielle Geller’s personal story, and that is a “me thing.”

We received copies from the publisher through NetGalley!

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