Synopses & Reviews
One year after Patty Hearst and her captors robbed Hibernia National Bank, a second kidnapping took place, far from the glare of the headlines. Virginia Holman's mother, in the thrall of her first psychotic episode, believed she'd been inducted into a secret army. On command of the voices in her head, she spirited her two daughters to the family cottage on the Virginia Peninsula, painted the windows black, and set up the house as a field hospital. They remained there for four years, waiting for a war that never came.
"1974 was a bad year to go crazy, " Rescuing Patty Hearst begins. And it was easy indeed for her mother's first symptoms to be explained away by the changing times. At first, Holman reveals, her mother was viewed as "finding herself" in the spirit of the decade. When challenged about her delusion of the secret war, she invoked the name of Martha Mitchell. When she exhibited florid psychosis, her aunt, influenced by Hollywood's smash hit movie, The Exorcist, seriously suggested an exorcism might be in order. Even after she was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1980s, Holman's mother retained just enough lucidity to appease caseworkers in a system seemingly more concerned with protecting a patient's rights than with halting the progress of her desperately dangerous illness.
Rescuing Patty Hearst will startle as a daughter's harrowing sojourn in the prison of her mother's mind and linger as an indelible portrait of a young woman defined by her mother's illness until at last she rekindles a family love that had lost its way.
"Devastating, gorgeous, triumphant, and beautifully written. This book is a somersault out of a dark and terrifying childhood." Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
"Rescuing Patty Hearst will suck you up and spit you out, whisk you away and bring you back, take your breath and then some. Rarely does something like this come along an extraordinary story written extraordinarily well." Clyde Edgerton, author of Raney and Where Trouble Sleeps.
"Bravo to Virginia Holman for writing honestly and barvely of how illness can cripple an entire family. A testament to the power of love and the enduring human sprit, this brilliant memoir should be required reading for everyone." Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls
"Rescuing Patty Hearst is filled with potent images of family life, ghost children, refugees, secret armies. That it's a true story, and that Virginia Holman can write it now with such clarity and generosity, is astonishing." Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and The Solace of Leaving Early
"Rescuing Patty Hearst [is an] unforgettable memoir....Holmans gutsy prose bespeaks her survivors backbone and hindsight."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Readers will find themselves releasing their breath only at the end of the short, remarkably taut chapters. No wonder the portion published last year in DoubleTake won a Pushcart Prize."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[Holman] tells her story with both gentleness and good humor.
This book is a heartbreaking testament of Holman's struggles to overcome a childhood lost to madness and grief."
Book Magazine , 4 Star Review
"In lean prose lacking any trace of self-pity, Holman, who sees parallels between herself and Hearst, infuses her nightmarish past with compassion and insight. As in Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, another triumphant memoir of a childhood gone awry....BOTTOM LINE: Captivating"
"an unflinching exploration of the ties, however twisted and tangled, that eternally bind a mother and child."
A Child Rescues Herself, The Hartford Courant
In a dexterous portrait of madness and shadows, Pushcart Prize winner Holman recounts the dark days her family was held hostage by her mother's delusions and her country was beset with the folly of the Watergate era.
About the Author
Virginia Holman has contributed to DoubleTake, Redbook, Self, USA Today, and The Washington Post. In 2001, a portion of Rescuing Patty Hearst appeared in DoubleTake under the title "Homesickness," and won a Pushcart Prize.