Title: Little Sister: A Memoir
Author: Patricia Walsh Chadwick
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publish Date: April 28, 2020
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "Imagine an
eighteen-year-old American girl who has never read a newspaper, watched
television, or made a phone call. An eighteen-year-old-girl who has
never danced—and this in the 1960s.
It is in Cambridge,
Massachusetts where Leonard Feeney, a controversial (soon to be
excommunicated) Catholic priest, has founded a religious community
called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Center's
members—many of them educated at Harvard and Radcliffe—surrender all
earthly possessions and aspects of their life, including their children,
to him. Patricia Chadwick was one of those children, and Little Sister is her account of growing up in the Feeney sect.
Separated from her parents and forbidden to speak to them, Patricia
bristles against the community’s draconian rules, yearning for another
life. When, at seventeen, she is banished from the Center, her home, she
faces the world alone, without skills, family, or money but empowered
with faith and a fierce determination to succeed on her own, which she
does, rising eventually to the upper echelons of the world of finance
and investing. "
My Two Cents:
In "Little Sister," Patricia childhood is spent in a cult called "The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart." Started as a sect based on Catholic doctrine, the cult is led by a priest who will be excommunicated and a couple of... accomplices (I can't think of what else to call them). The group takes their beliefs to the extreme and everyone is expected to do what the leader, Leonard Feeney, says they must do in order to save their souls, even if it means giving up their children. Patricia is one of these children. This book provides an unflinching look at a terrible situation but it's also a story of great resilience!
As a parent, it is so hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a parent who would be willing to give up their children. Patricia's parents are so moved by what they think this group offers that they are willing to give their children over to essentially be raised by other adults in the group beginning at age 3. They go from being the primary parents to only seeing their children on rare occasions when Patricia and her siblings have to refer to their parents by new names doled out by Feeney. It was so hard to read about how Patricia tries to get used to this new world.
I am always impressed by writers who are able to write about really difficult situations, particularly when they are first-person accounts. I felt for Patricia throughout the book. She goes through so many things that seem just so hard to believe. She and the other children in the book go through a lot of abuse and mistreatment that was sometimes hard to read about.
Her story is inspiring and it was really wonderful to read how she comes into her own as a young adult. She is able to overcome so much. Humans are just so amazingly resilient. This was a riveting memoir and would be a perfect pick for anyone looking for a story of triumphing over what could have ended tragically!