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Fourteen: Growing Up Alone in a Crowdby Stephen Zanichkowsky
Synopses & Reviews
The haunting story of a boy who couldn't find any room to breathe until he left his thirteen siblings behind and withdrew to the world inside his head--only to emerge forty years later, still alone.
Born eighth in a family on its way to becoming almost twice that size, Stephen Zanichkowsky immediately learned that his life was to be no Cheaper by the Dozen romp. Instead, he and his siblings fended for themselves to avoid the wrath of their father and the heartbreaking emotional distance of their mother. Silence and terror ruled. A brother was taken away by the family one day, never to return. A sister was born with a mental deficiency that was never explained. As the years went by, each child left home as soon as he or she turned eighteen, creating unaccustomed "space" by skipping the others' weddings and graduations.
With artless narrative style, Zanichkowsky embarks on a journey back to the family's Lithuanian Catholic roots in Brooklyn and follows its members on a tortured climb to suburban comfort that, for him, culminates in his escape from home and the draft. Along the way, he seeks answers to lifelong questions: Why was his father so angry and uncontrollable? Why did his parents continue to have children when they didn't have enough love, patience, or money to spread around?
Forty years later after leaving home, Zanichkowsky reaches out to his siblings--most of them divorced or living alone--and discovers a group of people still learning how to form relationships with others. In the process, the boy that once retreated into his own world emerges, whole and self-possessed.
"Brutally frank and completely engrossing." Kirkus
"In the struggle to understand, Stephen Zanichkowsky has brought poetry to a disturbing tale of what it is like to grow up without joy." Sarah Payne Stuart, New York Times Book Review
"Incorporating voices of various brothers and sisters, [Zanichkowsky's] journey is meditative and absorbing, as he confronts the deepest fear of every child: what if Mom and Dad do not or cannot really love me...? He is effective at balancing the unhappy narrative with insights into the family's functioning as a whole, and his contested place in it." Greg Gestner, Ruminator Review
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