In Carson City, Nevada there lived a perfect family that would have been completely at home on a prime-time sitcom about perfect families. There was a dad who made a good living, an attractive mom who fashioned her "look" after Jackie Kennedy, a young, spunky girl nicknamed "Sunshine," and her brother, the crewcut cutup named B. J. They lived in a pretty white house with a fence and a beautiful big tree in the back yard, where their cat and dog slept peacefully together. In Jennifer Lauck's BLACKBIRD: A Childhood Lost and Found, this All-American dream existence doesn't last very long.
It is hard to find memoirs where someone's very personal situations affect you as deeply as Lauck's --- not since ANGELA'S ASHES have we been taken on such a remarkable journey unlike one that any of us have probably experienced --- and yet we understand every feeling, every description sounds like something we have heard before. Lauck's story is universal, a happy childhood torn wildly apart by a series of strange circumstances way beyond her control.
When her mom dies of ailments from which she suffered for years, her father gets remarried to a member of a religious cult; and after his mysterious death, Lauk becomes embroiled in a slave-like existence that has dire consequences for her and her brother. BLACKBIRD takes a look at this extraordinary life with a simple voice in which Lauck's pain comes through even more chillingly than if this had been a melodramatic account of the circus-like world into which she was thrown at a young age.
BLACKBIRD is a moving testimonial to the ability of children to persevere and survive when the adults around them don't know what to do with them. Jennifer Lauck is working on a sequel, and I for one, definitely look forward to it.