If you like ‘Annie’s Ghosts’

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Breaking the Code: A Father's Secret, a Daughter's Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything
Karen Fisher-Alaniz


A father’s secret, a daughter’s journey, and the question that changed everything.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot


Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

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In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide
Nancy Rappaport


In a fearless memoir of loss and grief, Nancy Rappaport delves into a complex family history haunted by the 1963 death of her mother from an overdose when the author was only four. Using her mother’s words from newspaper clippings, notes, and a novel she was writing at the time of her death, Rappaport reconstructs a vivacious and deeply troubled wife and mother. Yet in pushing through her parents’ turbulent marriage and troubled family history, she weaves a stunning narrative of perspective, profound sadness and unrelenting hope.

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Isadore's Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town
Mardi Link


A gripping account of the mysterious disappearance of a young nun in a northern Michigan town and the national controversy that followed when she turned up dead and buried in the basement of the church.

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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Maggie O'Farrell


In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.

Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

A gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will haunt you long past its final page.

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The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic
Darby Penney,Peter Stastny


When New York’s 120-plus-year-old mental institution Willard State Hospital was closed down in 1995, New York Museum curator Craig Williams found a forgotten attic filled with suitcases belonging to former inmates. What follows are profiles of ten individual patients whose suitcase contents proved intriguing, referencing their institutional record—including histories and session notes, as well as some on-the-ground research.

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Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
Christopher Payne


In this book, architect and photographer Christopher Payne documents the decay of neglected and abandoned state mental hospitals. He spent six years on the project.

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards


Award-winning writer Kim Edwards’s The Memory Keeper’s Daugher is a brilliantly crafted family drama that explores every mother’s silent fear: what would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you?

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Sarah's Key
Tatiana de Rosnay


On the 60th anniversary of the 1942 roundup of Jews by the French police in the Vel d’Hiv section of Paris, American journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article on this dark episode during World War II and embarks on an investigation that leads her to long-hidden family secrets and to the ordeal of Sarah, a young girl caught up in the raid.

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Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
Julie Metz


Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.

“He loved you so much.” That’s what everyone keeps telling her. It’s true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. The most damaging affair was ongoing—a tumultuous relationship that ended only with Henry’s death. For Julie, the only thing to do was to get at the real truth—to strip away the veneer of “perfection” that was her life and confront each of the women beneath the veneer.

Perfection is the story of Julie Metz’s journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness—if not perfection.

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The Castaways: A Novel
Elin Hilderbrand


With rumors of infidelity straining Greg and Tess MacAvoy’s marriage, the couple head out on their sailboat one early-summer day to celebrate their wedding anniversary, hoping the roughest waters are behind them. But in an accident off Nantucket, they mysteriously drown, leaving behind two small children, as well as the three couples who have long been their closest friends.

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Shanghai Girls: A Novel
Lisa See


In 1937 Shanghai, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and confront a devastating, life-changing secret.

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Free as a Bird
Gina McMurchy-Barber


Born with Down syndrome, Ruby Jean Sharp lives at a time when being a developmentally disabled person usually meant growing up behind locked doors. When Ruby Jean’s loving grandmother dies, she is taken to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. It is here that Ruby Jean learns to survive isolation, boredom, and every kind of abuse.

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