When she was 12, Amanda’s best friend’s family gifted her a Christmas stocking stuffed with a carton of cigarettes. She was thrilled. The cigarettes meant she would no longer have to steal and smoke her mother’s uncool brand. And the stocking—though it didn’t have her name stitched along the top like everyone else’s—meant, for the moment at least, that she belonged. She hadn’t felt that way since before her free-spirited mother left her corporate-climbing father with 4-year-old Amanda and her older sister in tow. Before her father remarried a woman who never wanted children. Before her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Before Amanda and her sister were left to largely fend for themselves.
More than three decades later, with the death of her parents as a catalyst, Amanda began sifting through the relics of her family’s fragile past. She wondered if the chance objects she and her mother and father had held on to—a faded doodle of a girl gathering apples, broken knickknacks, worn family photos and her parents’ journals—might unravel their long-standing and tightly woven narrative and tell a different story.
Searching through the eyes of “The Gathering Girl,” Amanda Irene Rush discovers an alternate truth buried within the deepest roots of her family tree. She demonstrates how the untangling of a twisted past can be both beautiful and brutal, and how the journey can ultimately lead to forgiveness.
“‘The Gathering Girl’ by Amanda Rush is a family memoir that does not settle for easy redemption. In it she collects the fragments of her broken family, studying photographs for body language and facial expressions and pondering artifacts from the past such as toys, shards of stained glass, gifts and artistic doodles that act as unconscious guides. These gatherings take her past leaden words like ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘manic’ for her mother and ‘alcoholic’ or ‘adulterer’ for her father to a more nuanced view. What she discovers does not repair her family, but it does allow her to acknowledge the sorrow, see the thwarted love there, and forgive her parents and herself. This gathering is a gift for all who seek solace from a troubled past.” —Steven Harvey, author of “The Book of Knowledge and Wonder”
“Amanda Rush’s ‘The Gathering Girl’ is a lyrical meditation on memory and how we become who we are. Amanda takes readers on a sometimes dazzling, sometimes heartbreaking journey to unravel the mystery that was her family. And as Amanda searches the artifacts of her life for answers, she gives voice to the yearning so many of us feel to understand the forces that shaped us. This is a beautiful, surprising book about one woman finding her way home.” —Kate Hopper, author of “Ready for Air” and “Use Your Words”
“A rich accumulation of memory and reflection, ‘The Gathering Girl’ models ways to explore the past to resolve uncertainties we carry within us. Its images invite us to interrogate albums of our own and determine how well we understand what we’re viewing. An honest and insightful memoir.” —Robert Root, author of “Happenstance” and “Lineage”
“Biographers must necessarily comb through what remains, but what if the evidence—the boxes and papers and material of a lived life—is one’s own? This is memoir as archive, as excavation, as a puzzle box that is its own solution. ‘The Gathering Girl’ is filled with process, with construction, with recollection, with the resonant pumping of blood. As a reconstruction it is fascinating; as a book it is astounding.” —Christian Kiefer, author of “The Heart of It All”
“‘The Gathering Girl’ is a tour de force memoir that brings 1970s and 1980s Florida and Ohio to life. Amanda Rush carefully observes family photos, letters and other artifacts to reconstruct the chaos and beauty that constellate her early life. Her gathering brings us to the heart of where memory both falters and shines to come to terms with the present. ‘What matters is what suffering makes of us; what we make of it,’ she writes. Amanda’s wise and compassionate rendering of the past makes this book unforgettable.” —Sandra Simonds, author of “Triptychs”
“Amanda Rush’s ‘The Gathering Girl’ is a beautiful work of memoir—thoughtful, evocative and bracingly honest about a lifetime’s loss and heartbreak. In crystalline, considered prose, Amanda tells us about being a daughter of complex, flawed parents without a hint of sensationalism or grievance. This is a terrific book, clear-eyed and wise. I loved it. —Christopher Coake, author of “You Would Have Told Me Not To”