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My Dead Parents: A Memoir

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“In this beautifully written, poignant, honest, and unflinching work, the author takes readers with her on her journey through grief and discovery as she finds out – for good or ill – who her parents really were.” - Library Journal (starred review) Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous int “In this beautifully written, poignant, honest, and unflinching work, the author takes readers with her on her journey through grief and discovery as she finds out – for good or ill – who her parents really were.” - Library Journal (starred review) Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous international travels. On their trips to Egypt, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, her mother, Anita, and her father, George, lived an entirely separate life from the one they led as the parents of Anya and her sister – one that Anya never saw. The parents she knew were a brittle, manipulative alcoholic and a short-tempered disciplinarian: people she imagined had never been in love. But when she cleaned out her childhood home in the wake of her mother's death, she discovered artifacts of a life and a love affair that she didn't recognize--letters, photos of exotic locales, and startling documents that revealed hidden pasts and forced her to rethink everything she thought she knew about her life and her family. Determined to learn who her parents had really been, she embarks on a journey of discovery and encounters truths she could have never imagined. Part literary thriller, part detective story, My Dead Parents is the account of one woman's relentless quest to solve the tragic and complex mysteries of her past, and in so doing, to come more fully to terms with her life today.


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“In this beautifully written, poignant, honest, and unflinching work, the author takes readers with her on her journey through grief and discovery as she finds out – for good or ill – who her parents really were.” - Library Journal (starred review) Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous int “In this beautifully written, poignant, honest, and unflinching work, the author takes readers with her on her journey through grief and discovery as she finds out – for good or ill – who her parents really were.” - Library Journal (starred review) Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous international travels. On their trips to Egypt, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, her mother, Anita, and her father, George, lived an entirely separate life from the one they led as the parents of Anya and her sister – one that Anya never saw. The parents she knew were a brittle, manipulative alcoholic and a short-tempered disciplinarian: people she imagined had never been in love. But when she cleaned out her childhood home in the wake of her mother's death, she discovered artifacts of a life and a love affair that she didn't recognize--letters, photos of exotic locales, and startling documents that revealed hidden pasts and forced her to rethink everything she thought she knew about her life and her family. Determined to learn who her parents had really been, she embarks on a journey of discovery and encounters truths she could have never imagined. Part literary thriller, part detective story, My Dead Parents is the account of one woman's relentless quest to solve the tragic and complex mysteries of her past, and in so doing, to come more fully to terms with her life today.

30 review for My Dead Parents: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    My Dead Parents by: A Memoir by Anya Yurchyshyn is a 2018 Crown publication. The blurb for this book intrigued me. What would it be like to discover your parents were nothing like you thought they were? What would happen if you discovered your father’s death might have been more than a tragic accident? I confess, I did have a few preconceived notions about this book. I thought the book would be centered mainly around Anya’s investigation into her father’s ‘accident’. However, the bulk of the boo My Dead Parents by: A Memoir by Anya Yurchyshyn is a 2018 Crown publication. The blurb for this book intrigued me. What would it be like to discover your parents were nothing like you thought they were? What would happen if you discovered your father’s death might have been more than a tragic accident? I confess, I did have a few preconceived notions about this book. I thought the book would be centered mainly around Anya’s investigation into her father’s ‘accident’. However, the bulk of the book was about her upbringing, her troubled teenage years, her parent’s relationship from her viewpoint, and her deep-seated resentments and animosity towards her family, especially her father. Anya details her problems at home, and yes, her father was on occasion, abusive, verbally and emotionally, and had some very questionable parenting skills. Anya responded to his criticism, which began when she was but a toddler, by growing a massive chip on her shoulder. Her mother’s apathy led to deep and bitter resentment, as well. But, Anya was not the easiest person to like or relate to as a teen, but was also typical in some ways. Many of us, as teens, are so self- centered, we are incapable of seeing our parents as unique individuals. We only view them in the role that pertains to us. Not only that, parents are not obligated to tell their children all their problems or share all their burdens, which might help their offspring gain a better understanding of them. But adults don’t want to weigh their children down with too many heavy grown up issues, wishing to protect them from harsh truths and realities, especially when it comes to marriage. But, Anya could not really grasp that concept until she was an adult, not until she was handed irrefutable proof, via a cache of letters she discovered after her mother’s death, the truth about her parent's marriage and relationship. Anya was genuinely shocked to discover that her parents were once deeply, passionately in love, and that yes, despite their flaws and foibles, they did love their children. They had suffered great losses, were faced with difficult and complex problems Anya was never made aware of growing up, which allowed her personal animosity to fester and grow unchecked. But, once her perceptions about her parents began to change, the door opened for a shocking revelation about her father’s death. Anya had been told her father had died in a tragic accident in his home country of the Ukraine. But, when it was suggested to her that the car crash was no accident- it was murder, she couldn't rest until she knew for certain. This leads Anya on a search for answers, for the truth about her father, and along the way she takes her own journey toward self-discovery. This is certainly a unique memoir. But, I have to say, the literary thriller promised in the blurb doesn’t quite manifest itself here, and the investigation segment was rather rushed through in opinion. While Anya’s journey and the character study of her family unit was interesting to a point, and I did understand why she felt the need to lay the groundwork and background necessary to explain why she was so determined to discover all the aspects of her parent’s life and love, and why it meant so much to her, I thought too much time was spent on it. I think, instead, it might have been best to flesh out the investigation segments more fully, which was, for me at least, the best part of the book. To say this is a detective story/literary thriller is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. However, once we did get down to the nitty gritty of the murky circumstances surrounding her father’s death, I was fully engaged. This part of the book is truly riveting. You have to hand it Anya. She did a great job with what she had to work with. The information the author provided about the Ukraine was also very interesting, helping me put all that transpired in that country into sharper focus. At the end of the day, this book was as much about Anya’s personal journey towards real adulthood, about emotional growth and maturity as it was about a possible true crime mystery. This book was not exactly what I was expecting, but it was a very unique memoir and I’m glad I took the time to read it, despite a few misgivings. 3 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    On average I choose to abandon two books a year. This year, this is the second in a month. Both were on lists of must read books, which indicates that others really enjoyed them. I wasn’t enjoying this memoir to the point where I really didn’t want to pick it up at all. My heart hurts for the author. Very sad story but I felt like a weight was lifted when I returned it to the Library.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    I found this to be a wonderfully written book about a young woman who, after her mother dies a lonely death from alcoholism, begins cleaning out her home. Going through her personal papers she comes across a pile of letters written by her parents during a time they were apart before they were married and were in different cities. Her father's parents objected to the match and were trying to keep them from seeing one another because she wasn't Ukrainian, but her father didn't care, he was in love I found this to be a wonderfully written book about a young woman who, after her mother dies a lonely death from alcoholism, begins cleaning out her home. Going through her personal papers she comes across a pile of letters written by her parents during a time they were apart before they were married and were in different cities. Her father's parents objected to the match and were trying to keep them from seeing one another because she wasn't Ukrainian, but her father didn't care, he was in love. Suddenly, she was seeing her father for the first time, realizing she never really knew him during her life. The more she read, the more she found she didn't know her mother either, as she read the passionate words that went back and forth between them. She takes on a project to learn about who they were before she was in their lives when they were young and happy and carefree. When they traveled the world. She interviews people from their families and old friends who knew them. Former coworkers and then she travels to Ukraine to learn more about her father's last years and tries to get to know him more too and find out why he was always so critical of her. An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and author Anya Yurchyshyn for my honest review. Crown Publishing Publication date: March 27, 2018

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    ‘My Dead Parents: A Memoir” is a deeply compelling debut, written by Anya Yurchyshyn. Anya explores her dysfunctional family history related to her parent’s marriage that ended when her father was killed while he was living and working in the Ukraine. Anya would wonder if they had ever actually loved each other, they seemed so mismatched and unhappily married. Anya found her parents love letters written in the 1970’s that revealed a deep love; and travel abroad to distant and exotic locations: C ‘My Dead Parents: A Memoir” is a deeply compelling debut, written by Anya Yurchyshyn. Anya explores her dysfunctional family history related to her parent’s marriage that ended when her father was killed while he was living and working in the Ukraine. Anya would wonder if they had ever actually loved each other, they seemed so mismatched and unhappily married. Anya found her parents love letters written in the 1970’s that revealed a deep love; and travel abroad to distant and exotic locations: China, Turkey, Lebanon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe—they collected artifacts, unique items and clothing. Yet, George’s family strongly disapproved of their son’s marriage to Anita. George and Anita’s children didn’t speak Ukrainian, or observe cultural or religious customs as their cousins were taught. Anya remembered a childhood where she only wanted to hide or disappear. Terribly afraid of her father’s temper and rages, he constantly scolded and rebuked her. When Anya wrote on bathroom stall at school that she wanted to die, she was referred to a child psychologist for an evaluation and therapy. Later, in middle school Anya was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. Oddly, her problems with her parents were never fully addressed or solved in therapy. Anya was also bullied by other girls and labeled a “slut” by the way she dressed, the music she listened too etc. While her father traveled on business for banking work in the financial sector, her mother remained indifferent to Alexandra and Anya. They largely took care of themselves. Anita, the vice-president of the Sierra Club, gave speeches at conventions and traveled abroad, never appreciating her role as a prestigious banker’s wife. In 1990, George accepted a job in the Ukraine, and relocated to Kiev. The only way he could be contacted was by fax. The machine would zip and screech at all hours of the night. Moving his family to the Ukraine, would never happen. On July 9th 1994, George was killed with two other passengers after being driven from a factory in Cherkasy. According to his driver Vitality, he was forced to swerve sharply but was struck by the driver of a van resulting in a head-on collision. Alexandra was interning in the Ukraine, identified her father’s body and made final arrangements. Anita was devastated, her alcohol consumption increased with her loss. Anya, on the other hand observed: “I performed the tasks of a daughter who lost her father. I accepted flowers, muffins, shook hands, received hugs and tried to look sad. But I wasn’t. I felt free, buoyant. The weight that had been crushing me my entire life was gone.” Anya returned from college tp visit her family in Boston. Alexandra and her husband Raj tried their best to check on Anita: Her behavior had become “erratic and wild,” there were visits to the emergency room, a caregiver was needed to monitor Anita's drinking and keep her safe. Anita never took her admission to the Betty Ford Center seriously enough to maintain her sobriety. After years of alcoholism, Anita passed away in her sleep in 2010, she was 64. Eventually Anya would travel to the Ukraine and hire a private investigator to check the facts about her father’s mysterious death. The case had been reopened. Anya continued with her lifelong therapeutic quest for direction and reassurance, studying with Reiki masters, and monks in meditation circles. While doing energy work with a massage therapist she was asked why she felt like a failure and who it was that decided this was the case? The divine love of the universe did not loathe her the way she felt her father had. The loud self-criticism was his voice mixed with her own. No longer would she accept this voice or listen to it, an inner peace would remain with her from that point on. Excellent family photos included. ** With thanks and appreciation to Crown Publishing via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    3.5 Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss. The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her 3.5 Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss. The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her mother's drinking became more obvious. The latter part of the book describes the author's journey in search of her parents, reading their love letters and interviewing friends and family to learn their past history. This is an experience we all must go through--the acceptance of our parents are flawed human beings, and that we don't know the experiences that created the people we remember. The most intriguing part of the book is when the author travels to the Ukraine to untangle the mystery of her father's death in a car accident. Conflicting reports leave open the possibility that her father's death was not accidental. Learning about post-Soviet Ukrainian history was very interesting to me. As a family history researcher, I also found the author's journey interesting. I received a free ebook from First to Read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    Via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Ukraine sounded like a setting for a dark fairy tale that offered no magic or redemption, a place that had nothing to do with me.' It’s a strange sort of life for American born children with parents who come from other countries. The stories our parents share are nothing we can fully grasp, having never been at the mercy of losing our freedoms, yearning for a culture you had to leave behind, our only history in memories painted by our parents. I Via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Ukraine sounded like a setting for a dark fairy tale that offered no magic or redemption, a place that had nothing to do with me.' It’s a strange sort of life for American born children with parents who come from other countries. The stories our parents share are nothing we can fully grasp, having never been at the mercy of losing our freedoms, yearning for a culture you had to leave behind, our only history in memories painted by our parents. It’s so much harder when you’ve never been taught your parent’s language, there are things that never translate (words, memories, nightmares). How are we to understand the spaces in the distance between us, the sorrows we can’t understand because said parent doesn’t have the words to express them, even if their English is flawless? Culture is a beautiful thing, but it can be limiting too. In part of the memoir, Anya mentions her cousins being more ‘Ukrainian’ than she and her sister were, having been exposed to the culture and taught the language. Her father compared them and felt she and her sister could never measure up, but how could she when he didn’t take the effort nor time to teach them. It’s funny how common that is, how often a parent can be proud of their heritage and yet give up teaching their American children about it, especially the language, then feeling slighted their offspring can’t say a word beyond hello and goodbye in their mother tongue, nor muster up the sufficient amount of pride and patriotism their parent feels. We have a habit of dissecting behaviors based on our own experiences, never thinking how living in a country can mould you. Coldness can be a defense, mistrust and distance can be a byproduct of real events that took place when you had to fear your neighbors, even your own family turning you in for speaking against the regime. It means nothing to a child though, looking for love, acceptance, warmth. Anya has only her own experience to draw from, her own homeland, with needs any American child has that foreign parents resent or simply cannot comprehend. Their expectations are so much higher, understanding what obstacles they had to conquer to get where they are. Both are naturally gifted, highly intelligent, but it for Anya what is simple to her parents was a struggle for her. Anya’s parents were different people when they were alone together on their travels. As parents they were disappointed, short-tempered, demanding, drunk, distant, or outright absent. It was impossible to work up enthusiasm for his short visits, he was as much as a stranger. When her father was killed, she was numb because what did she really know about him? She could only recall being a disappointment to him. He was never really around, having lived overseas for his job, far more interested in his career. To Anya’s eyes there was a selfish cruelty there, how different her mother could have been had she had support, love instead of being a married woman living like a single mother. He got to use his education, give his dreams wings, experience all the exciting things the places he traveled and worked at had to offer while her once vibrant, gorgeous, intelligent mother was left behind to be the adult. It robbed she and her sister as much, leaving them with an unhappy mother that didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to nurture them. Her mother was consumed over his death, it had to have been murder! It was because of his work! Growing up, Anya’s mother drank herself into a stupor, she couldn’t be sure how much was delusional drunk ravings or truth. She falsely believed her parents were incapable of love, especially for each other. It isn’t until she loses her mother that she uncovers the secret wounds both her mother and father carried, and finds herself traveling to Wales and the Ukraine, speaking to people who knew them to find out if there is truth to her father having been murdered. In the process, she discovers losses her mother suffered, that explains perfectly how she became unhinged. The heartbreak is in realizing she would have loved to know them, how much fun it would have been to be friends with her mother, to see the light in her father’s eyes when he was in his element, as strangers knew him. But it’s never to be. All she has is the remains of the past. It’s a struggle, in loss people gasp when someone confesses that they didn’t feel the expected emotions to their parent’s passing. Maybe that’s because so many people have intimate relationships with their parents, or a gentler, safer upbringing. Others are left to struggle with conflicting emotions, particularly in abusive relationships. Taking care of a drunk parent is a form of abuse, distance is a form of abuse. Yet, through her search she knows there were reasons why her mother couldn’t keep things together, why her father chose to ‘run’ from her sorrow. There is still love but it’s a different sort. Anya, through excavating the ruins of her parent’s life and marriage, is able to forgive and maybe find some peace, solve some of the mystery of who they were as people. This is a deeply sad, moving memoir. Some answers still leave many questions. Was he murdered? Was his death just an unlucky accident? Some questions never have a solid answer, especially in countries where truth is a slippery beast. Publication Date: March 27, 2018 Crown Publishing

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This memoir begins with the author's experience growing up with her parents and her admitted lack of respect for them. She shows an unflattering part of herself and her parents that makes the first part of the book extremely compelling. After losing both of her parents by the age of 32, she begins to find letters written by her father that show a side of him she's never seen. What follows is a deep dive into her parents history to reconstruct their lives through letters written by them, intervie This memoir begins with the author's experience growing up with her parents and her admitted lack of respect for them. She shows an unflattering part of herself and her parents that makes the first part of the book extremely compelling. After losing both of her parents by the age of 32, she begins to find letters written by her father that show a side of him she's never seen. What follows is a deep dive into her parents history to reconstruct their lives through letters written by them, interviews with anyone who knew them, and traveling around the country and the world to walk in their steps and try to understand the tragedy of their young lives. I received an advance copy from Penguin's First to read program, and some pages were missing from the copy I read for review. The final copy on sale 3/27 is not identical to the arc, so that may have made a difference in how much I enjoyed the book. I appreciated the first section more than rest of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen Germain

    Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of Anya Yurchyshyn's memoir, My Dead Parents, in exchange for an honest review. PLOT- In her memoir, My Dead Parents, Anya Yurchyshyn examines how life shaped her parents into the people that she knew; an alcoholic mother and a tempermental father. When Yurchyshyn was a teenager, her father George, died in a tragic and suspicious car accident in the Ukraine. Her mother, Anita, feeling that her husband had been murdered fell into a deeper Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of Anya Yurchyshyn's memoir, My Dead Parents, in exchange for an honest review. PLOT- In her memoir, My Dead Parents, Anya Yurchyshyn examines how life shaped her parents into the people that she knew; an alcoholic mother and a tempermental father. When Yurchyshyn was a teenager, her father George, died in a tragic and suspicious car accident in the Ukraine. Her mother, Anita, feeling that her husband had been murdered fell into a deeper despair and drank herself into an early grave. As Yurchyshyn sorted through her parent's belongings, she discovered letters and pictures that sent her on a journey to discover the parents that she never met, the people that her parents were before she was born.  LIKE- My Dead Parents is impossible to put down. It wasn't short enough for me to read in a single sitting, but I plowed through it in less than two days. Yurchyshyn is a gifted writer and they way that she has presented her family story packs the biggest punch. She begins with the fact that her parents have both died, as is evident in the title, but then she quickly goes back to her childhood and starts painting her complicated relationship with both of them. Her earliest memories are of parents who were glamorous and exciting. They would often travel to far-flung parts of the world and return with treasures, like rugs from the middle east and masks from Asia. These treasures filled Yurchyshyn's home and imagination, making it seem like she lived in a museum. But this part of her parents was also mixed with her mother's alcoholism and refusal to step-in to protect Yurchyshyn and Yurchyshyn's older sister, Alexandra, from their father's demanding behavior. Yurchyshyn rebels against her parents, especially when George temporarily relocates to his home country of the Ukraine, leaving his family in America.  When George dies in a car crash, Anita suspects that it was staged and that he had been murdered. Yurchyshyn feels guilty for feeling relieved that her father has died and that she is now out from under his controlling behavior. However, now as she transitions to adulthood, her mother's alcoholism ramps up. Alexandra tries to take the brunt of care taking for their mother, in efforts to shelter her younger sister, but she cannot conceal everything. Anita's alcoholism is out of control and up until her death, her addiction and behavior creates a lot of pain within the family. Echoing how she felt when her father died, Yurchyshyn feels relieved when her mother passes. However, as she is going through her parent's possessions, she falls down a rabbit hole of wondering about her parents, trying to figure out how such seemingly vivacious people could have turned into the parents she knew. She takes her discovery of letters further, to speak with family and close-friends of her parents, in efforts to understand the people that they were before she was born. Who are our parents and can we ever really know them? This is the central question of My Dead Parents and something that I found personally relevant, but that is a concept that I'd argue will be universal for all readers. Like Yurchyshyn, I've lost both of my parents and I have definitely look through all of the objects that are now in my possession and I've tried to cobble together "the truth" of their lives, especially for my father, who died when I was four. I have a hard time reconciling the mom that I knew, from what I knew of her as a person from before me. Life can dramatically alter people. Yurchyshyn writes about her parents with care and love, but she also does not spare the difficult parts of their relationship or her feelings. I felt heartbroken, but like I could fully relate to her memoir. Yurchyshyn learned that she had an older brother who died as an infant, a pain that her parents never recovered from. She also learned of the cultural differences between her parents. Her father's family fled the Ukraine when he was young, moving to America. Her mother was from a Polish-American family. There is a long history of distrust between Ukraine and Poland. Her parents union was not approved of by her father's parents. Additionally, George's strong ties to his Ukrainian heritage became more prevalent as years went on, including his disappointment that his daughters did not carry on the culture. As a teenager, Yurchyshyn didn't understand why her father needed to return to Ukraine and felt that it was because her parent's marriage was crumbling. In hindsight, she now realizes that it was a deep-seeded need to help repair his home country, rather than a failing in his marriage. The car accident cut short his efforts in the Ukraine and also his plan to return to living with his family. The last part of the memoir turns to an investigation, as Yurchyshyn travels to the Ukraine to try to determine if her father's death was an accident or murder. I'm not going to spoil it, but just know that this entire section is intense and unexpected. DISLIKE- Not a single thing.  RECOMMEND- Yes!!! My Dead Parents is a memoir that I will not soon forget and I'm certain that it will be on the bestseller's list. A great pick for a book club too, so much to discuss.  Like my review? Check out my blog!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Yurchyshyn's parents were troubled persons who died tragic deaths (apart). She's not really sad about this (her words), but later discovers that they might have been interesting people. Perhaps I just didn't care for the authorial voice, but I found her insights more irritating than profound or revelatory.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Mootz

    Okay so. I had just received this book when my father fell very ill and was brought home in hospice care. I began reading it after he passed on Christmas Day. There is little similarity between the relationship Anya had with her parents but so much in common as I navigated my grief by seeking to understand who my father was before me. As Anya sought answers from the Ukraine, I sought answers from the shores of Vietnam revealing my father's time there and what would eventually explain the missing Okay so. I had just received this book when my father fell very ill and was brought home in hospice care. I began reading it after he passed on Christmas Day. There is little similarity between the relationship Anya had with her parents but so much in common as I navigated my grief by seeking to understand who my father was before me. As Anya sought answers from the Ukraine, I sought answers from the shores of Vietnam revealing my father's time there and what would eventually explain the missing pieces of my father's life he couldn't speak about. And when Anya suffers secondary trauma from learning so much she didn't know about her parents, so did I. This memoir will forever remind of the grief I experienced after losing my dad but also the joy in learning so much about the man I adored so much.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue Dix

    I am reviewing an ARC of this memoir. This is about Anya and her tumultuous relationship with her parents and her complete dissociation from them. After their deaths, as she is clearing her mother’s house, she learns about her parent’s life together and has to rethink everything about them and her relationship with each of them. It is at times, gut wrenching, but always engaging.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maudaevee

    This was so intriguing and intimate, everything I want in a memoir.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julia Nock

    How well can any child really know their parents? By the time she reached adulthood, both of Anya Yurchyshyn's parents were dead. Her distant and abusive father was killed in a car accident halfway around the world when she was sixteen, Her mother, after long years of nonfunctioning alcoholism,finally succeeded in drinking herself to death by age 64. But in cleaning out her mother's house, Yurchyshyn makes a discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her parents, and begins a How well can any child really know their parents? By the time she reached adulthood, both of Anya Yurchyshyn's parents were dead. Her distant and abusive father was killed in a car accident halfway around the world when she was sixteen, Her mother, after long years of nonfunctioning alcoholism,finally succeeded in drinking herself to death by age 64. But in cleaning out her mother's house, Yurchyshyn makes a discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her parents, and begins a search across the country, and the world to find a larger truth about her parents' lives, and ultimately, her own. A well-written and compassionate memoir, that reminds us that our relationship with loved ones continues even after they are no longer with us. ]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katya Kazbek

    I like it when narratives offer distance. To me, not enough time has passed and not enough therapy hours have been clocked in by Yurchyshyn to make her a good narrator of this story. There is too much trauma in the way she tells it, and too much space dedicated to her figuring out if she should perceive her flawed parents as humans or not. On a human level, I understand and relate, coming from a dysfunctional family myself. But this does not make good storytelling. Yurchyshyn is clearly very tal I like it when narratives offer distance. To me, not enough time has passed and not enough therapy hours have been clocked in by Yurchyshyn to make her a good narrator of this story. There is too much trauma in the way she tells it, and too much space dedicated to her figuring out if she should perceive her flawed parents as humans or not. On a human level, I understand and relate, coming from a dysfunctional family myself. But this does not make good storytelling. Yurchyshyn is clearly very talented but the narrative is structured in a way that leaves gaping holes and makes the narrator seem entitled and superficial. This is especially evident in the ending chapter, which is wrapped up urgently, even though the clash between the narrator and her father's homeland is incredibly interesting, and the way she lets the same swamp suck her in is fascinating. She glosses over everything, especially the way in which she becomes complicit in a whole crime. There were some brilliant lines and observations, and I think that the story at the heart of it all is great, but on the overall, I felt like I was being taken hostage into accepting the narration as something more thrilling than it is. I think I would have enjoyed it all more if it were a novel, and the claim of a true story was not hovering above because nothing in the family's history is unique or unexpected.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was not what I expected. It's a little different as far as memoirs go. It's kind of a autobiography with a little bit of history thrown in. After the death of her mother, Anya finds love letters written by her parents to each other. She begins to reconsider how she see's her parents. Instead of viewing them as just her parents, she begins to view them as people, with desires, fears, and goals for the future. She had a difficult childhood, which she credits for turning her into the person sh This was not what I expected. It's a little different as far as memoirs go. It's kind of a autobiography with a little bit of history thrown in. After the death of her mother, Anya finds love letters written by her parents to each other. She begins to reconsider how she see's her parents. Instead of viewing them as just her parents, she begins to view them as people, with desires, fears, and goals for the future. She had a difficult childhood, which she credits for turning her into the person she is today. Her father alternated between being absent and overbearing. Her mother slowly turns into an alcoholic. However, upon learning more about them, she comes to understand the choices they made and the path they eventually take with their lives. While not making excuses for their behavior, she does come to some sort of understanding and ultimately forgiveness. To be honest, there were times where I found it difficult to be sympathetic toward the author. There were times, when I felt like she was being a little self indulgent and whiny, but towards the later half of the book she does redeem herself. Despite her unusual upbringing and crazy parents she somehow turned out alright and learned a lot about the people who raised her. It was an interesting read for sure. Thank you to NetGalley for providing and ARC for review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jane LaFazio

    The author cared about her parents lives more than I did.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Why do people chose to write memoirs? After many years of reading memoirs, I come to believe that the authors are trying to understand their lives and the people and events in them. That's certainly the case of Anya Yurchyshyn and her remarkable parents, George and Anita, who died and left Anya and her sister with questions that seemingly had no answers. "Remarkable" people are not easy to live with. In Anya's case, her father George had fled Ukraine to the United States as a child after WW2. Th Why do people chose to write memoirs? After many years of reading memoirs, I come to believe that the authors are trying to understand their lives and the people and events in them. That's certainly the case of Anya Yurchyshyn and her remarkable parents, George and Anita, who died and left Anya and her sister with questions that seemingly had no answers. "Remarkable" people are not easy to live with. In Anya's case, her father George had fled Ukraine to the United States as a child after WW2. Though growing up and being schooled in the US, George maintained a strong identity as Ukrainian and in his career as a banker, went back to the country in the 1980's and 1990's to help with economic development after the country became independent when the USSR broke up. He was killed an an automobile accident near Kiev in 1994. Anya's mother, of Polish background, never really fit in with George's life, though they did travel together and they raised two daughters, though, Anita did most of the parenting, as well as maintaining her own career as an environmentalist. She also did most of the drinking and died in 2010 from alcoholism. Anya Yurchyshyn's book, "My Dead Parents", is a well-written story of a family of individualists who never seemed to really fit together. Between her mother's alcoholism and her father's distance - both physical and emotional - the love the couple first felt for each other gradually eroded. And when parents don't connect, it's harder for the family to connect and make a whole. By the book's end, I think Anya has come to terms with her family and her life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chaitra

    Anya Yurchyshyn makes no bones about the fact that her parent's deaths did not affect her. Her dad was a mostly absent parent who had a horrible temper when he was present, her mother an alcoholic who said nothing to her husband when he crossed the line with his daughter. This I thought brave - it's easy to think that your parents are toxic, it's hard to actually put it out there in front of judging audiences. I didn't particularly like the rest of it, and that's not because of the story. Anya d Anya Yurchyshyn makes no bones about the fact that her parent's deaths did not affect her. Her dad was a mostly absent parent who had a horrible temper when he was present, her mother an alcoholic who said nothing to her husband when he crossed the line with his daughter. This I thought brave - it's easy to think that your parents are toxic, it's hard to actually put it out there in front of judging audiences. I didn't particularly like the rest of it, and that's not because of the story. Anya did have interesting parents. And I did want to read about them. But I didn't like it anyway, and that's probably because I didn't care for the way it was written. It's hard for me to explain, since the language/structure isn't offensively bad, all it did was not be compelling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Schoenfeld

    I was excited to read this book after hearing Anya speak about it at Point Street Reading Series in Providence, Rhode Island. The basic premise intrigued me -- after her mother died, she discovered a collection of letters her parents had written to each other when they were young and in love. I also have a collection of such letters, and am getting to know my parents, so I was curious how Anya would handle the story. Her book is a masterful telling of her own reconciliation with how she viewed h I was excited to read this book after hearing Anya speak about it at Point Street Reading Series in Providence, Rhode Island. The basic premise intrigued me -- after her mother died, she discovered a collection of letters her parents had written to each other when they were young and in love. I also have a collection of such letters, and am getting to know my parents, so I was curious how Anya would handle the story. Her book is a masterful telling of her own reconciliation with how she viewed her parents, plus an international journey to investigate questions that were never answered after her father's death.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    My mother, Anita, died in her sleep in 2010... the official cause of death was heart failure, but what she really died from was unabashed alcoholism, the kind where you drink whatever you can get your hands on, use your bed as a toilet when you can't make it to the bathroom, and cause so much brain damage you lose the ability to walk unsupported. The cause of her death was herself, and her many problems. The month after she died, I began cleaning out her house, my childhood home, in downtown Bo My mother, Anita, died in her sleep in 2010... the official cause of death was heart failure, but what she really died from was unabashed alcoholism, the kind where you drink whatever you can get your hands on, use your bed as a toilet when you can't make it to the bathroom, and cause so much brain damage you lose the ability to walk unsupported. The cause of her death was herself, and her many problems. The month after she died, I began cleaning out her house, my childhood home, in downtown Boston. 4.5 A super interesting and well-done memoir. Anya Yurchyshyn has mostly disdain for her father and her mother, who died when she was 16 and 32 respectively. Her upbringing wasn't a nightmare, but it wasn't great, and she has no rose-colored glasses about her parents' many flaws. This is the story of her deep dive into her parents' lives before she was born and their hidden lives after she was. She discovers everything from deceased children to alleged murders-for-hire, and of course a lot of mundane sadness that fills a life. She doesn't forgive them in some silly, grand, epiphany, rather she meditates on what it must have been like to be them. Two unique aspects of this were that she never defended her parents, as so many memoirists do (ones with far worse parents, no less) and also that she didn't indulge in the spotlight. She glosses over most of her own life that's not directly relevant. She keeps the focus where it needs to be. Oh also, I know this is non-fiction, but the setting of an old row house in downtown Boston in the 80s and 90s with her reclusive mother wasting away inside was powerful and seriously elevated it for me

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I am a hard marker when considering how many stars to add to a review. I don’t give many 5 star ratings, even if I’ve really enjoyed a book. There has to be something more there. If I could, I would award MY DEAD PARENTS 6 stars. This is the one of the most thoroughly researched books, regardless of genre, I’ve encountered. It is not just the sheer legwork here, in an absolutely heartbreakingly uphill journey, that Anya Yurchyshyn makes- but that she is unflinching and brave and true in her will I am a hard marker when considering how many stars to add to a review. I don’t give many 5 star ratings, even if I’ve really enjoyed a book. There has to be something more there. If I could, I would award MY DEAD PARENTS 6 stars. This is the one of the most thoroughly researched books, regardless of genre, I’ve encountered. It is not just the sheer legwork here, in an absolutely heartbreakingly uphill journey, that Anya Yurchyshyn makes- but that she is unflinching and brave and true in her willingness to document her own reactions and behavior and emotional limitations with so much insight — as a member of the family that she worked so hard to puzzle together. I think this will always be one of of my favorite books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for the ARC of My Dead Parents. I love memoirs, however, I did not even like this one. I couldn’t connect with Anya who seemed really disrespectful growing up but at the same time judging her parents. Sure they did plenty wrong but so did she. Because I couldn’t connect or even like the author, I didn’t care about her parents stories one little bit. I felt it was poorly written and a mess of a book. I’m puzzled why it’s rated so high. Some peop Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for the ARC of My Dead Parents. I love memoirs, however, I did not even like this one. I couldn’t connect with Anya who seemed really disrespectful growing up but at the same time judging her parents. Sure they did plenty wrong but so did she. Because I couldn’t connect or even like the author, I didn’t care about her parents stories one little bit. I felt it was poorly written and a mess of a book. I’m puzzled why it’s rated so high. Some people’s lives are so interesting and deserve to be told, this one would have been better left boxed up in the attic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    My Dead Parents is a memoir written by the youngest daughter. She describes a childhood inundated with a demanding, largely absentee father and a mother increasingly spiraling into extreme alcoholism. After both parents' deaths, the author pieces together the story of her parents' lives, their marriage, and begins to see and comprehend more than she had before. In the end, I think she made peace with the difficulties of her past and came to accept her parents for who they were. Thanks to NetGall My Dead Parents is a memoir written by the youngest daughter. She describes a childhood inundated with a demanding, largely absentee father and a mother increasingly spiraling into extreme alcoholism. After both parents' deaths, the author pieces together the story of her parents' lives, their marriage, and begins to see and comprehend more than she had before. In the end, I think she made peace with the difficulties of her past and came to accept her parents for who they were. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexia Ferrari

    Yurchyshyn did a great job of capturing her highly dysfunctional childhood. A sad story, as was expected from the title and blurb on the book jacket.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A really beautiful book. Grateful to have read it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The author’s Ukrainian father, a banker, died in a car accident in 1994; her mother, once the volunteer International Vice President of the Sierra Club, died of complications of alcoholism in 2010. When she thought back to her parents’ life together, she remembered photos and souvenirs they brought back from her father’s business travels in Africa and the Middle East. But after their deaths, when she read their early love letters, she felt like they’d been strangers. “I didn’t know my parents [G The author’s Ukrainian father, a banker, died in a car accident in 1994; her mother, once the volunteer International Vice President of the Sierra Club, died of complications of alcoholism in 2010. When she thought back to her parents’ life together, she remembered photos and souvenirs they brought back from her father’s business travels in Africa and the Middle East. But after their deaths, when she read their early love letters, she felt like they’d been strangers. “I didn’t know my parents [George and Anita] at all. I didn’t understand them, either. And instead of pushing them away as I’d planned, I brought them closer, hoping I could learn who they were and what had happened to their love.” I enjoyed the first half well enough, but once she’s narrated up to her mother’s death it feels like the story has been told and there’s no point in sticking around for more (including a trip to the Ukraine to try to substantiate conspiracy theories about her father’s death). It’s also hard to relate to her absence of grief – even though her father was physically and emotionally abusive and her mother drank herself to death. Eventually she concludes, “it didn’t matter if I loved them or not. They were part of me, either way.” This reminded me somewhat of The Fact of a Body – childhood abuse, a dead brother she only learned about later, and the search for the truth about the past. But as a family memoir or ‘bereavement’ memoir, it is unlikely to stick with me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    This book was a bit of a downer, but perhaps the title should have warned me. In this well-written memoir, the author recounts her less-than-happy childhood, and then embarks on an obsessive quest to discover what her parents were really like as people (they weren't too wonderful as parents). It's an interesting idea, and makes it clear that we generally don't know our parents as people but merely how they figure in our own existence; but ultimately this book depressed me (detailed descriptions This book was a bit of a downer, but perhaps the title should have warned me. In this well-written memoir, the author recounts her less-than-happy childhood, and then embarks on an obsessive quest to discover what her parents were really like as people (they weren't too wonderful as parents). It's an interesting idea, and makes it clear that we generally don't know our parents as people but merely how they figure in our own existence; but ultimately this book depressed me (detailed descriptions of slow death by alcoholism did not help) and it was difficult to feel much empathy with any of the people in it. There also seemed to be a bit of a split between the story of the author's family and its difficult relationships, and Yurchyshyn's investigation into her father's suspicious death; somehow they didn't quite fit together.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I hate not finishing books and I love memoirs about dysfunctional families, but ultimately, this one failed to keep me interested. The first page or two seemed very promising, but by the middle of the book I felt like this was more of a cathartic exercise for the author than entertaining writing for an audience.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sara Wortman

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. An interesting memoir but also a sad one. It took a lot of guts for Anya to tell her story but also be willing to learn more about who her parents really were.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne Davies

    Anya Yurchyshn's memoir is a soul searching , gut wrenching journey to discover and to understand parents she thought she knew but realizes she had only observed them through the prism of her mistaken assumptions As a first generation Ukrainian, I could relate with some of her observations about the hyper nationalism of her dad who felt compelled to help Ukraine after independence. My family left Ukraine before WW2 and they only visited their ancestral home after the fall of the Soviet Union. My Anya Yurchyshn's memoir is a soul searching , gut wrenching journey to discover and to understand parents she thought she knew but realizes she had only observed them through the prism of her mistaken assumptions As a first generation Ukrainian, I could relate with some of her observations about the hyper nationalism of her dad who felt compelled to help Ukraine after independence. My family left Ukraine before WW2 and they only visited their ancestral home after the fall of the Soviet Union. My uncles said they felt resentment from the relatives who had never left Ukraine. I was stunned when Anya discovers the truth behind her father's suspicious car accident...but somehow I wasn't surprised. After years of suffering and deprivation, Ukrainians are inured to neglect and corruption. How else can you explain that they elected for President a comic actor who played the role of President on a television program! Life imitating art, indeed. Yurchyshn's mother is a tragic figure and the author vividly describes her sad decline into alcoholism after the death of her husband. If I have one complaint with the memoir, it would be Anya's relentlessly unsentimental description of her mother's addiction. A little too voyeuristic for me. I re-read Anya's book three times. I loved it the first time, a little less the second time and back to liking it the third time. Currently I am writing a book about my own mother, Sally Tomiuk Kurpita, a complicated woman I barely knew. This year 2020 will mark the 60th anniversary of her death. My mother was only 32 years old when she died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances. My book recounts what happens when a Ukrainian immigrant family's dream turns into a nightmare. It is a daughter's search to understand a mother she did not know and hopefully solve the mystery behind her death. I hope that Anya has forgiven her parents for their shortcomings. People are often caught up by unconscious and emotional impulses that are neither pragmatic or efficient and sometimes work against their own interests. Human affairs are not always motivated by rational impulses. And we ultimately discover the search for absolutes is the search for unhappiness.

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