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Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jennifer Lauck conveys the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions of a frightened child with utter conviction and vivid immediacy in her remarkable memoir of the six years during which both of her parents died. Lauck opens in 1969, when she is 5 and her 31-year-old mother is entering the final phase of a decade of severe health problems. Momma is beautiful and loving; we feel the tender intimacy between mother and daughter, even as we see that Jennifer has assumed a lot of adult responsibilities that make her fearful and obsessed with rules. Eight-year-old brother Bryan responds to Momma's illnesses with anger, and is often cruel to his sister. High-powered, workaholic Daddy does his best, but is not around a lot. (The adult author subtly depicts the kids' half-conscious understanding that Daddy is seeing other women.) As Momma's health worsens and the family moves to Southern California to be near a better hospital, Lauck captures in painful detail the atmosphere of physical decay that surrounds a mortally ill woman. Momma dies on Bryan's 10th birthday. In short order, Daddy has moved them all in with Deb, who obviously has been his girlfriend for a while, and events spiral down from there. Daddy dies of a heart attack before Jennifer turns 10; Deb keeps the stepchildren (whom she dislikes) so that she can get their social security allotment; Jennifer is sent out to work at a residence that is run by Deb's creepy Freedom Community Church. She is 11 by the time that her aunt and uncle rescue her--a moment that is nearly as exultant for readers as it is for the girl whose trials they have shared for nearly 400 pages. Her harrowing story might sound unrelievedly grim in the retelling, but Lauck's lack of self-pity and the delicacy of her prose transform it into an odyssey of endurance and transcendence. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Prefaced by a medical report summarizing her mother's various hospitalizations, this heartbreaking memoir reconstructs the sad and turbulent events of Lauck's childhood, which was overshadowed by the illness and early death of her mother. In 1969, five-year-old Lauck stayed with her mother at their home in Carson City, Nev., preparing her mother's breakfast, helping her get dressed on good days and basking in the warmth of her mother's undivided attention while her older brother was at school and her father at work. When her mother's health continued to decline (among other things, she suffered from a duodenal ulcer and tumors), Lauck's father was advised to seek better care in California. The move was traumatic, for it separated Lauck from the only home she knew and from her caring, extended family. At her mother's urging, Lauck told no one at her school of her mother's illness, fearing the interference of social welfare authorities. After her mother died in 1971, when Lauck was seven, her father quickly remarried, bestowing on his children a classically evil stepmother, and leaving Lauck feeling powerless to complain about her new misery to her often absent father. Lauck's writing is utterly convincing, although the child narrator's innocent voice sometimes leaves the reader wondering how her father could have been so blind to his children's welfare or why their extended family did not step in sooner to help these unhappy children. Throughout, Lauck, who is now in her 30s, remains true to her child's eye and keeps the reader sympathetic and engaged. Fans of emotionally powerful booksAor anyone who has lost a parentAwill find this memoir very satisfying. Agent, Rita Rosenkranz. Author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671042564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671042561
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was up until 4 a.m. finishing Jennifer Lauck's gripping story of her childhood. The pages seemed to turn themselves as I followed the early loss of her tenderhearted mother, her panicky father's remarriage, and her experiences at the hands of a neurotic stepmother. What makes this debut all the more impressive is Lauck's clear and compelling prose style. Early in the book, the childlike tone seems potentially grating, but the reader is quickly drawn under Lauck's spell as that voice rapidly hardens and matures in the face of a tough life. More important, there's an astonishing lack of self-pity that makes the story all the more chilling. This is not one of those horrifying stories of child abuse and molestation that, no matter how shocking, we like to think of as happening on the fringes of society. Instead, this is a straightforward recounting of life's circumstantial horrors, namely what happens to children when the people who are supposed to take care of them die and there's no one to take the adults' places. It seems too easy (and unfair) to compare her to Mary Karr, but Lauck displays the same surefootedness and narrative tautness that kept readers of "The Liars Club" enthralled. The only happy ending is her smiling author photo, and I don't know if I could have gone to sleep as dawn approached except that her acknowledgements thanked a husband and son for an unconditional love that she thought she'd never feel again.I'm thankful for Jennifer Lauck's happy adult life (and I feel the need after this glowing review to say that I don't know the woman at all), and I'm thankful as well for the talents that allowed her to turn an incredibly painful childhood into a gripping piece of literature.
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Format: Hardcover
After seeing Jennifer Lauck on Oprah I began my search for this book. Once in hand, I read it in a period of 14 hours almost right through since I was unable to put it down, and unable to stop my tears. How desperately I wanted to take this poor child in my arms and hold her forever. It brought great comfort to remember her on Oprah...that she has survived, but even so I had to keep flipping to the back cover to see her smiling face to assure myself that her suffering is over now. I became so angry at society - I am sure there were many opportunities for adults to notice this child and her situation, but no one helped. This book reminded me of my own childhood pain, and helps me to perfect some of my parenting skills, and I truly hope that this book will serve the ultimate purpose and awaken us to the plight of children. Jennifer's story is heartbreaking, but she is not alone in a world that still largely minimizes children. Thank you dear sweet Jennifer for telling your story, and I truly hope that your words reverberate throughout the world as they allow insight into lonliness, grief, rejection and abandonment as seen through the eyes of a child. I tremendously look forward to the sequel.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book 10 minutes ago...I read it very quickly because I had to find out what happened to Jennifer. This is a very well-written book. It is very harrowing and made me very mad that no adults came through to help Jennifer and her brother. I can only wonder how Jennifer made it through to where she is now. If I could do anything this minute it would be to call the author on the phone and find out what happened to her in the ensuing years. On the back fly leaf of the book it says that she is at work on a sequel, I will be anxiously awaiting her next book. I am awestruck by her ability to thrive under the circumstances she grew up in. This book will stay with me forever for many reasons. It is truely amazing. Read it.
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Format: Hardcover
What a beautiful story--it's so incredibly well written. Makes you want to find the author and give her a huge hug! We've all had difficult lives, and Jennifer reminds us all to look back and remember. I lost my mother, too, and I found myself trying to reconstruct my feelings. It's just tremendously powerful. Congratulations to a new voice on the memoir scene--can't wait to read the next from Jennifer.
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By A Customer on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I saw Jennifer Lauck on "Oprah" on Friday, and was so moved by her story and resilience that I bought the book on Saturday, and read the whole thing.
It is an amazing story of hardship and survival, of added insults to injuries, and she not only lives to the tell the tale, but seems to have made peace with her difficult past.
I had a difficult childhood myself, and her story rings absolutely true: she captures the loneliness and confusion perfectly. I can't wait to share the book with a friend.
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Format: Hardcover
Blackbird proves that no matter how much pain a child or young adult endures, if they're strong enough it is possible to grow up to lead a well balanced and productive life. All too often, with the help of psychologists and therapists, adults blame their lack of success in life on their parents. We are all so busy spending so much time blaming others, we fail to reach our potential.
Jennifer Lauck, the author of Blackbird, suffered greatly and uses her childhood experiences to tell a spellbinding and heart-rending story of the loss of innocence and survival. It is amazing that a 6 year old child could not only survive the pain that was inflicted on her, but rise above it and tell her story to the entire world.
The writing style is unique. Written in the perspective of 6 yr old Lauck, the story tells everything from the kitchen counter down. Some passages and thoughts are totally random and Lauck goes into great detail about the strangest subjects... just like the mind of a 6 yr old. I think this is one reasons I like the book so much. Lauck was able to capture and describe the way a child thinks and views the world in an incredible way.
I look forward to reading the follow-up to Blackbird. I am concerned for lauck's brother B.J./Bryan. Lauck describes his deeply burried anger throughout the book, and I fear for his ability to cope with that anger later in life.
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