My Dead Parents: A Memoir

My Dead Parents: A Memoir

“In this beautifully written, poignant, honest, and unflinching work, the author takes readers with her on her journey through grief and discovery as she finds out – for good or ill – who her parents really were.” - Library Journal (starred review)Anya Yurchyshyn grew up in a narrow townhouse in Boston, every corner filled with the souvenirs of her parents’ adventurous int...

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Title:My Dead Parents: A Memoir
Author:Anya Yurchyshyn
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My Dead Parents: A Memoir Reviews

  • Christina

    Overall, an excellent memoir.

    Well-written, immersive, and emotional. This woman's journey overtook my last two days.

    I will post a more in-depth review closer to publication date, but I will definitely be recommending this book.

    I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Danielle Mootz

    Okay so. I had just received this book when my father fell very ill and was brought home in hospice care. I began reading it after he passed on Christmas Day. There is little similarity between the relationship Anya had with her parents but so much in common as I navigated my grief by seeking to understand who my father was before me. As Anya sought answers from the Ukraine, I sought answers from the shores of Vietnam revealing my father's time there and what would eventually explain the missing

    Okay so. I had just received this book when my father fell very ill and was brought home in hospice care. I began reading it after he passed on Christmas Day. There is little similarity between the relationship Anya had with her parents but so much in common as I navigated my grief by seeking to understand who my father was before me. As Anya sought answers from the Ukraine, I sought answers from the shores of Vietnam revealing my father's time there and what would eventually explain the missing pieces of my father's life he couldn't speak about. And when Anya suffers secondary trauma from learning so much she didn't know about her parents, so did I. This memoir will forever remind of the grief I experienced after losing my dad but also the joy in learning so much about the man I adored so much.

  • Michelle

    ‘My Dead Parents: A Memoir” is a deeply compelling debut, written by Anya Yurchyshyn. Anya explores her dysfunctional family history related to her parent’s marriage that ended when her father was killed while he was living and working in the Ukraine. Anya would wonder if they had ever actually loved each other, they seemed so mismatched and unhappily married. Anya found her parents love letters written in the 1970’s that revealed a deep love; and travel abroad to distant and exotic locations: C

    ‘My Dead Parents: A Memoir” is a deeply compelling debut, written by Anya Yurchyshyn. Anya explores her dysfunctional family history related to her parent’s marriage that ended when her father was killed while he was living and working in the Ukraine. Anya would wonder if they had ever actually loved each other, they seemed so mismatched and unhappily married. Anya found her parents love letters written in the 1970’s that revealed a deep love; and travel abroad to distant and exotic locations: China, Turkey, Lebanon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe—they collected artifacts, unique items and clothing. Yet, George’s family strongly disapproved of their son’s marriage to Anita. George and Anita’s children didn’t speak Ukrainian, or observe cultural or religious customs as their cousins were taught.

    Anya remembered a childhood where she only wanted to hide or disappear. Terribly afraid of her father’s temper and rages, he constantly scolded and rebuked her. When Anya wrote on bathroom stall at school that she wanted to die, she was referred to a child psychologist for an evaluation and therapy. Later, in middle school Anya was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. Oddly, her problems with her parents were never fully addressed or solved in therapy. Anya was also bullied by other girls and labeled a “slut” by the way she dressed, the music she listened too etc.

    While her father traveled on business for banking work in the financial sector, her mother remained indifferent to Alexandra and Anya. They largely took care of themselves. Anita, the vice-president of the Sierra Club, gave speeches at conventions and traveled abroad, never appreciating her role as a prestigious banker’s wife. In 1990, George accepted a job in the Ukraine, and relocated to Kiev. The only way he could be contacted was by fax. The machine would zip and screech at all hours of the night. Moving his family to the Ukraine, would never happen.

    On July 9th 1994, George was killed with two other passengers after being driven from a factory in Cherkasy. According to his driver Vitality, he was forced to swerve sharply but was struck by the driver of a van resulting in a head-on collision. Alexandra was interning in the Ukraine, identified her father’s body and made final arrangements. Anita was devastated, her alcohol consumption increased with her loss. Anya, on the other hand observed: “I performed the tasks of a daughter who lost her father. I accepted flowers, muffins, shook hands, received hugs and tried to look sad. But I wasn’t. I felt free, buoyant. The weight that had been crushing me my entire life was gone.”

    Anya returned from college tp visit her family in Boston. Alexandra and her husband Raj tried their best to check on Anita: Her behavior had become “erratic and wild,” there were visits to the emergency room, a caregiver was needed to monitor Anita's drinking and keep her safe. Anita never took her admission to the Betty Ford Center seriously enough to maintain her sobriety. After years of alcoholism, Anita passed away in her sleep in 2010, she was 64.

    Eventually Anya would travel to the Ukraine and hire a private investigator to check the facts about her father’s mysterious death. The case had been reopened. Anya continued with her lifelong therapeutic quest for direction and reassurance, studying with Reiki masters, and monks in meditation circles. While doing energy work with a massage therapist she was asked why she felt like a failure and who it was that decided this was the case? The divine love of the universe did not loathe her the way she felt her father had. The loud self-criticism was his voice mixed with her own. No longer would she accept this voice or listen to it, an inner peace would remain with her from that point on. Excellent family photos included. ** With thanks and appreciation to Crown Publishing via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  • Lolly K Dandeneau

    Via my blog:

    'Ukraine sounded like a setting for a dark fairy tale that offered no magic or redemption, a place that had nothing to do with me.'

    It’s a strange sort of life for American born children with parents who come from other countries. The stories our parents share are nothing we can fully grasp, having never been at the mercy of losing our freedoms, yearning for a culture you had to leave behind, our only history in memories painted by our parents. I

    Via my blog:

    'Ukraine sounded like a setting for a dark fairy tale that offered no magic or redemption, a place that had nothing to do with me.'

    It’s a strange sort of life for American born children with parents who come from other countries. The stories our parents share are nothing we can fully grasp, having never been at the mercy of losing our freedoms, yearning for a culture you had to leave behind, our only history in memories painted by our parents. It’s so much harder when you’ve never been taught your parent’s language, there are things that never translate (words, memories, nightmares). How are we to understand the spaces in the distance between us, the sorrows we can’t understand because said parent doesn’t have the words to express them, even if their English is flawless? Culture is a beautiful thing, but it can be limiting too. In part of the memoir, Anya mentions her cousins being more ‘Ukrainian’ than she and her sister were, having been exposed to the culture and taught the language. Her father compared them and felt she and her sister could never measure up, but how could she when he didn’t take the effort nor time to teach them. It’s funny how common that is, how often a parent can be proud of their heritage and yet give up teaching their American children about it, especially the language, then feeling slighted their offspring can’t say a word beyond hello and goodbye in their mother tongue, nor muster up the sufficient amount of pride and patriotism their parent feels.

    We have a habit of dissecting behaviors based on our own experiences, never thinking how living in a country can mould you. Coldness can be a defense, mistrust and distance can be a byproduct of real events that took place when you had to fear your neighbors, even your own family turning you in for speaking against the regime. It means nothing to a child though, looking for love, acceptance, warmth. Anya has only her own experience to draw from, her own homeland, with needs any American child has that foreign parents resent or simply cannot comprehend. Their expectations are so much higher, understanding what obstacles they had to conquer to get where they are. Both are naturally gifted, highly intelligent, but it for Anya what is simple to her parents was a struggle for her. Anya’s parents were different people when they were alone together on their travels. As parents they were disappointed, short-tempered, demanding, drunk, distant, or outright absent. It was impossible to work up enthusiasm for his short visits, he was as much as a stranger. When her father was killed, she was numb because what did she really know about him? She could only recall being a disappointment to him. He was never really around, having lived overseas for his job, far more interested in his career. To Anya’s eyes there was a selfish cruelty there, how different her mother could have been had she had support, love instead of being a married woman living like a single mother. He got to use his education, give his dreams wings, experience all the exciting things the places he traveled and worked at had to offer while her once vibrant, gorgeous, intelligent mother was left behind to be the adult. It robbed she and her sister as much, leaving them with an unhappy mother that didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to nurture them. Her mother was consumed over his death, it had to have been murder! It was because of his work! Growing up, Anya’s mother drank herself into a stupor, she couldn’t be sure how much was delusional drunk ravings or truth. She falsely believed her parents were incapable of love, especially for each other.

    It isn’t until she loses her mother that she uncovers the secret wounds both her mother and father carried, and finds herself traveling to Wales and the Ukraine, speaking to people who knew them to find out if there is truth to her father having been murdered. In the process, she discovers losses her mother suffered, that explains perfectly how she became unhinged. The heartbreak is in realizing she would have loved to know them, how much fun it would have been to be friends with her mother, to see the light in her father’s eyes when he was in his element, as strangers knew him. But it’s never to be. All she has is the remains of the past.

    It’s a struggle, in loss people gasp when someone confesses that they didn’t feel the expected emotions to their parent’s passing. Maybe that’s because so many people have intimate relationships with their parents, or a gentler, safer upbringing. Others are left to struggle with conflicting emotions, particularly in abusive relationships. Taking care of a drunk parent is a form of abuse, distance is a form of abuse. Yet, through her search she knows there were reasons why her mother couldn’t keep things together, why her father chose to ‘run’ from her sorrow. There is still love but it’s a different sort. Anya, through excavating the ruins of her parent’s life and marriage, is able to forgive and maybe find some peace, solve some of the mystery of who they were as people. This is a deeply sad, moving memoir. Some answers still leave many questions. Was he murdered? Was his death just an unlucky accident? Some questions never have a solid answer, especially in countries where truth is a slippery beast.

    Publication Date: March 27, 2018

    Crown Publishing

  • Valerity (Val)

    I found this to be a wonderfully written book about a young woman who, after her mother dies a lonely death from alcoholism, begins cleaning out her home. Going through her personal papers she comes across a pile of letters written by her parents during a time they were apart before they were married and were in different cities. Her father's parents objected to the match and were trying to keep them from seeing one another because she wasn't Ukrainian, but her father didn't care, he was in love

    I found this to be a wonderfully written book about a young woman who, after her mother dies a lonely death from alcoholism, begins cleaning out her home. Going through her personal papers she comes across a pile of letters written by her parents during a time they were apart before they were married and were in different cities. Her father's parents objected to the match and were trying to keep them from seeing one another because she wasn't Ukrainian, but her father didn't care, he was in love. Suddenly, she was seeing her father for the first time, realizing she never really knew him during her life. The more she read, the more she found she didn't know her mother either, as she read the passionate words that went back and forth between them.

    She takes on a project to learn about who they were before she was in their lives when they were young and happy and carefree. When they traveled the world. She interviews people from their families and old friends who knew them. Former coworkers and then she travels to Ukraine to learn more about her father's last years and tries to get to know him more too and find out why he was always so critical of her.

    An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and author Anya Yurchyshyn for my honest review.

    Crown Publishing

    Publication date: March 27, 2018

  • Kathleen

    This memoir begins with the author's experience growing up with her parents and her admitted lack of respect for them. She shows an unflattering part of herself and her parents that makes the first part of the book extremely compelling. After losing both of her parents by the age of 32, she begins to find letters written by her father that show a side of him she's never seen. What follows is a deep dive into her parents history to reconstruct their lives through letters written by them, intervie

    This memoir begins with the author's experience growing up with her parents and her admitted lack of respect for them. She shows an unflattering part of herself and her parents that makes the first part of the book extremely compelling. After losing both of her parents by the age of 32, she begins to find letters written by her father that show a side of him she's never seen. What follows is a deep dive into her parents history to reconstruct their lives through letters written by them, interviews with anyone who knew them, and traveling around the country and the world to walk in their steps and try to understand the tragedy of their young lives.

    I received an advance copy from Penguin's First to read program, and some pages were missing from the copy I read for review. The final copy on sale 3/27 is not identical to the arc, so that may have made a difference in how much I enjoyed the book. I appreciated the first section more than rest of the book.

  • Nancy

    3.5

    Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss.

    The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her

    3.5

    Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss.

    The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her mother's drinking became more obvious.

    The latter part of the book describes the author's journey in search of her parents, reading their love letters and interviewing friends and family to learn their past history. This is an experience we all must go through--the acceptance of our parents are flawed human beings, and that we don't know the experiences that created the people we remember.

    The most intriguing part of the book is when the author travels to the Ukraine to untangle the mystery of her father's death in a car accident. Conflicting reports leave open the possibility that her father's death was not accidental.

    Learning about post-Soviet Ukrainian history was very interesting to me. As a family history researcher, I also found the author's journey interesting.

    I received a free ebook from First to Read.

  • Julie

    My Dead Parents by: A Memoir by Anya Yurchyshyn is a 2018 Crown publication.

    The blurb for this book intrigued me. What would it be like to discover your parents were nothing like you thought they were? What would happen if you discovered your father’s death might have been more than a tragic accident?

    I confess, I did have a few preconceived notions about this book. I thought the book would be centered mainly around Anya’s investigation into her father’s ‘accident’. However, the bulk of the boo

    My Dead Parents by: A Memoir by Anya Yurchyshyn is a 2018 Crown publication.

    The blurb for this book intrigued me. What would it be like to discover your parents were nothing like you thought they were? What would happen if you discovered your father’s death might have been more than a tragic accident?

    I confess, I did have a few preconceived notions about this book. I thought the book would be centered mainly around Anya’s investigation into her father’s ‘accident’. However, the bulk of the book was about her upbringing, her troubled teenage years, her parent’s relationship from her viewpoint, and her deep-seated resentments and animosity towards her family, especially her father.

    Anya details her problems at home, and yes, her father was on occasion, abusive, verbally and emotionally, and had some very questionable parenting skills. Anya responded to his criticism, which began when she was but a toddler, by growing a massive chip on her shoulder. Her mother’s apathy led to deep and bitter resentment, as well.

    But, Anya was not the easiest person to like or relate to as a teen, but was also typical in some ways. Many of us, as teens, are so self- centered, we are incapable of seeing our parents as unique individuals. We only view them in the role that pertains to us. Not only that, parents are not obligated to tell their children all their problems or share all their burdens, which might help their offspring gain a better understanding of them. But adults don’t want to weigh their children down with too many heavy grown up issues, wishing to protect them from harsh truths and realities, especially when it comes to marriage. But, Anya could not really grasp that concept until she was an adult, not until she was handed irrefutable proof, via a cache of letters she discovered after her mother’s death, the truth about her parent's marriage and relationship.

    Anya was genuinely shocked to discover that her parents were once deeply, passionately in love, and that yes, despite their flaws and foibles, they did love their children. They had suffered great losses, were faced with difficult and complex problems Anya was never made aware of growing up, which allowed her personal animosity to fester and grow unchecked.

    But, once her perceptions about her parents began to change, the door opened for a shocking revelation about her father’s death. Anya had been told her father had died in a tragic accident in his home country of the Ukraine. But, when it was suggested to her that the car crash was no accident- it was murder, she couldn't rest until she knew for certain.

    This leads Anya on a search for answers, for the truth about her father, and along the way she takes her own journey toward self-discovery.

    This is certainly a unique memoir. But, I have to say, the literary thriller promised in the blurb doesn’t quite manifest itself here, and the investigation segment was rather rushed through in opinion. While Anya’s journey and the character study of her family unit was interesting to a point, and I did understand why she felt the need to lay the groundwork and background necessary to explain why she was so determined to discover all the aspects of her parent’s life and love, and why it meant so much to her, I thought too much time was spent on it. I think, instead, it might have been best to flesh out the investigation segments more fully, which was, for me at least, the best part of the book.

    To say this is a detective story/literary thriller is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. However, once we did get down to the nitty gritty of the murky circumstances surrounding her father’s death, I was fully engaged. This part of the book is truly riveting. You have to hand it Anya. She did a great job with what she had to work with. The information the author provided about the Ukraine was also very interesting, helping me put all that transpired in that country into sharper focus.

    At the end of the day, this book was as much about Anya’s personal journey towards real adulthood, about emotional growth and maturity as it was about a possible true crime mystery.

    This book was not exactly what I was expecting, but it was a very unique memoir and I’m glad I took the time to read it, despite a few misgivings.

    3 stars

  • Kelli

    On average I choose to abandon two books a year. This year, this is the second in a month. Both were on lists of must read books, which indicates that others really enjoyed them. I wasn’t enjoying this memoir to the point where I really didn’t want to pick it up at all. My heart hurts for the author. Very sad story but I felt like a weight was lifted when I returned it to the Library.

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