Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra

Title: Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island
Author: Regina Calcaterra
Published: August 2013, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Personal copy

Regina’s Calcaterra memoir, Etched in Sand, is an inspiring and triumphant coming-of-age story of tenacity and hope.

Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

A true-life rags-to-riches story, Etched in Sand chronicles Regina’s rising above her past, while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all.

Beautifully written, with heartbreaking honesty, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American Dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.

My thoughts: This book was the first book my IRL book club read and while it's probably not a book I would have picked up on my own, I am glad I read it. It's a tough, heartbreaking read, but one that manages to inspire hope.

This book is practically set in my backyard - I grew up in Long Island, so it was incredibly devastating to read about what Regina and her siblings had to deal with on a regular basis during the childhood. I grew up in a middle class family around the same time that Regina did and it's so hard to imagine myself having the same street smarts that she did, yet I'm sure if my circumstances were as desperate as hers, I'd learn real fast.

I'm not a mother, but I cannot fathom having that many kids - Cookie had five with five different men - and then ultimately not really care what happened to these kids. She would leave them for long stretches of time - get them set up in the next house/apartment, take whatever money they had - money that should have been used for food for HER KIDS - and then take off for long stretches of time. I just don't understand this. And then she would get mad when social services got involved or the cops came calling around. Do you blame them?

This book put me through the wringer. I felt so many emotions. The only silver lining is that Regina ends up becoming a success story. She perseveres despite all that she went through in her childhood. That is where the hope comes in.

This book is hands down a great book for book clubs. We had some really good discussions and it lends itself quite nicely to conversations about many topics. This book is intense, but it was amazing to see that with all the bad that happened, good ultimately won out. And luckily, our next book club pick is a much lighter read!


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