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A Black Plastic Radio Shack Bag Floated on the Surface of the Pool

This moment of serendipity or coincidence in Casey Maxwell Clair’s memoir took my breath away. An Only Child and Her Sister is not steeped in spirituality or reminiscent of a religious upbringing. In fact, Casey’s childhood is far from traditions of any sort. This is the story of Casey and her sister, being… Well, “raised” seems the wrong choice of words here, maybe “dragged along” in the titanic wake of her parents’ divorce. While tragic in the level of neglect they endured, it is with wicked humor that she tells her tale. I laughed out loud at many different junctures, such as when the author’s father is brought back from the brink of death after her mother spills coffee on his previously comatose body. Everyone celebrated this turn of events, except her mother.


“I said your father could die here, not live here,” she said. “What are we going to do?” - referring to her former husband and his Lazarus performance.


Casey’s parents were a gorgeous, larger than life Hollywood couple back when Hollywood was just finding its footing. They were talented, beautiful, self-absorbed, and at times paranoid. The author captures their essence vividly. As a reader, I found myself wanting to have known them, or maybe just to have observed them, listened to their banter. But only as a fly on the wall, certainly not as their child. Their daughters suffered the residual damage of their toxic relationship. There were many points when their experiences were so outlandishly the result of bad parenting as to be nearly unbelievable, if not for the phenomenon of real life being far more bizarre than any fiction. A treatise on how not to parent, the journey is enjoyable in a sort of I-can’t-believe-she-survived-her-childhood sort of way. Also, a parable on the importance of sex education in the schools - just in case your mother doesn’t tell you anything.


Beautifully written and entertaining, this is worth reading to the end. Or at least until you understand the connection with the black plastic radio shack bag floating on the surface of the pool. Draw your own conclusions. I loved this book and am grateful for Casey’s bravery in penning her memoir.


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