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What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family's Search for Answers by [Jessica Pearce Rotondi]

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What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family's Search for Answers Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"The narrative is moving and dramatic as the author shares the alternately heartbreaking and triumphant moments of this intergenerational search for the truth... Rotondi also shares details about the CIA’s 'Secret War' in Laos, where, 'between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped two million tons of cluster bombs…a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.' An inspiring and revealing story of one family’s pursuit of the truth about their son." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"In her powerful, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching first book, Rotondi explains how in 2009, after her mother's death, she found boxes of files, newspaper clippings, and declassified CIA reports regarding her Uncle Jack and the family's search for him." —

"It’s both a stirring portrait of a family desperate for closure and a gripping account of the human toll of the U.S.’s military adventures." —
Fast Company

"A fascinating memoir about a woman's search for answers about a secret that has haunted her family for decades. After Jessica's uncle went missing in Laos in the ‘70s, the US government told his parents he'd died. His father, who was a POW in World War II, didn't trust them. After her mother's death, Jessica picks up the dormant investigation and searches for her uncle, uncovering personal and political secrets along the way." —

"Everything about
What We Inherit is unexpected and compelling… as breathtaking as any spy movie." —The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Rotondi deftly moves between the personal and the historical, and the book is a sensitive and searching examination of the ways loss and trauma live on through generations." —
The Boston Globe

“This love story—and yes, it is a love story—is part memoir, part history lesson, and all heart. A journey from darkness into light via love.” —
Jennifer Pastiloff, author of On Being Human

"Jessica Pearce Rotondi brilliantly probes the mysteries of a secret war while simultaneously exploring the secrets of her own family, to give us a book about coming to terms with many kinds of loss. Exceptional." —
Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning author of Midnight's Children

"Written like a spy novel and delivered like a whistleblower account of government deception, I felt like I was holding my breath until the very last page... This book shook my deepest assumptions about America." —
Sebastian Junger, award-winning author of The Perfect Storm

"In delicately nuanced prose and with fine novelistic detail, Jessica Pearce Rotondi relates an utterly absorbing tale of how, spurred by her mother's death, she attempted to track down the elusive truth about her uncle Jack, missing in action in Laos for decades. Her work, a beautiful amalgam of memoir, travelogue and investigative report, moves with the propulsive forward energy of a thriller. It is a haunting chronicle of loss and redemption and an irresistibly good read...You won't be able to put it down." —
Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Alexander Hamilton

What We Inherit is a strikingly original debut, a moving saga of love and grief that shows how world events reshaped three generations of one American family. Jessica Pearce Rotondi discovers that courage exists not only on battlefields, but even in the most ordinary kitchens.”  —Kate Bolick, bestselling author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

"This fascinating memoir is at once about a moment in American history and the particular logics of grief. Jessica Pearce Rotondi begins, on the page and in striking prose, to unfurl the grief she feels at her mother’s death. Reading this book, I learned about the after-effects of war, and about the power of grace. I learned about hope, and its transformation into peace.
What We Inherit is a powerful book about how we make sense of unfathomable loss - and about the realization that all loss is unfathomable. In our current world, with so much war and pain, this is the book we need."  —Eva Hagberg, author of How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Life-Saving Friendship

“Recounting her family’s heart-wrenching search for an uncle who was shot down during the secret bombing of Laos, Jessica Pearce Rotondi’s
What We Inherit is a triumph of investigative family history. A skillful and lyrical retelling of a mystery discovered largely upon her mother's death, this book is a reminder of how the suffering that remains after war, a secret war all the more so, can haunt us for generations.” —Joel Whitney, author of Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers and a founder of Guernica

"I devoured this book in one breathless gulp. A seamless blend of love, loss and legacy, this utterly gripping account of one woman's search to uncover a family mystery in the wake of her mother's death is at once heartbreaking and gorgeously hopeful. This is exactly the kind of compulsively readable memoir I'm always hoping to find, but so rarely do." —
Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance --This text refers to the hardcover edition.


“This love story―and yes, it is a love story―is part memoir, part history lesson, and all heart. A journey from darkness into light via love.” ―Jennifer Pastiloff, author of On Being Human --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0822W7CHG
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ The Unnamed Press (April 21, 2020)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 21, 2020
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 5230 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 242 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1951213076
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

About the author

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Jessica Pearce Rotondi is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. Her work has been published by the History Channel, Atlas Obscura, The Huffington Post, Refinery29, and Greatist. Previously, she was Senior Lifestyle Editor at The Huffington Post, Director of Content at SoulCycle, and a staff member at the PEN American Center, the world’s oldest literary human rights organization. Her first job in New York City was as a book publicist at St. Martin’s Press, where she had a “room of her own” in the Flatiron Building to fill with books.

Jessica is a graduate of Brown University, where she received a research grant to conduct an oral history project on World War II. "What We Inherit" is her first book.

Connect with Jessica on Twitter and Instagram @JessicaRotondi or visit

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
103 global ratings

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