Posted by: irenesroth | May 1, 2014

A Review of a GREAT Memoir by Joan Heartwell


Hampster Island
Joan Heartwell

This is a riveting memoir with a lot of different interlacing themes. It kept me spellbound to the pages of the book until I read it in its entirety.

The memoir is about Joan’s heroic life and how she overcame great odds as a child of parents who were neglectful and downright mean at times. It is hard to fathom how parents can treat their own flesh and blood in these ways. Maybe some parents should never be parents. We all seem to transfer some of our past hurts to other people. But to transfer these hurts to your own children is the worse thing we can do.

Joan’s family was not only dysfunctional, but they also had special needs. This made the issues of the family even graver. There is nothing like a mother who is a religious fanatic either and a kleptomaniac grandmother, with two special needs children. The mother will not only turn her kids away from religion but they won’t want to have anything to do any kind of organized religion.

The part of the story that deals with Joan’s caretaking role is truly courageous. I can’t even imagine being put in this kind of place and to thrive and overcome such obstacles as she did. This is a true mark of greatness and genius.

I love reading memoirs. I don’t usually like dark memoirs. But this book has held my attention from beginning to end. It probably was the sheer horror of it perhaps. But it is also brilliantly written by a master storyteller.

I commend Joan Heartwell for her genuine honesty. There is something in memoir writing that is so cathartic. Nothing really matches it not even psychotherapy. I hope that Joan was able to understand where she came from and where she got to now. And I especially hope that Joan is proud of her courage and bravery in the midst of such hardship.

Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth


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