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By Monica Wood

Winner of the 2012 Sarton Memoir Award

“Every few years, a memoir comes alongside that revitalizes the form…With beneficiant, specified, and unsentimental prose, Monica wooden brilliantly achieves this . . . When We have been the Kennedys is a deeply relocating gem!”—Andre Dubus III, writer of House of Sand and Fog and Townie

Mexico, Maine, 1963: The wooden family members is far like its shut, Catholic, immigrant associates, all depending on the fathers’ wages from the Oxford Paper corporation. but if Dad all at once dies on his solution to paintings, Mum and the 4 deeply attached wooden ladies are set adrift. When We have been the Kennedys is the tale of ways a family members, a city, after which a country mourns and reveals the energy to maneuver on.

“On her personal phrases, wry and empathetic, wooden locates the melodies within the aftershock of unexpected loss.”—Boston Globe

“[A] wonder of storytelling, layered and wealthy. it really is, through turns, a chronicle of the well known paper mill that was once either delight and poison to numerous generations of a city; a tribute to the ethnic stew of immigrant households that grew and prospered there; and an account of 1 family’s grief, love, and resilience.”—Maine Sunday Telegram

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Our block on fireplace! Our issues on fireplace! Our animals on hearth! aid! every little thing on fireplace! I wince wide awake, confident the lodge room’s ablaze, and certainly it really is, an orange flickering mirrored image at the close to wall. I lie there, paralyzed, eyes hitched open, mouth agape, not able to talk or scream or think that no-one understands that our relations is ready to burn alive, and the way will Father Bob recover from that, whilst I flip over on my cot and during the window locate the resource of the fiery mirrored image: NO emptiness. NO emptiness. NO emptiness. “Behave,” Mum warns us, as we get stiffly out of the automobile. Hangar-size parking zone zebra-striped with snow and black pavement and extra autos than I’ve ever visible in a single position, together with at Lazarou’s, Mexico’s giant vehicle dealership. I don’t take into account being chilly. We’ve dressed as though for church, our sturdy clothes and Sunday footwear now slopped with rainy. In reminiscence I ascend one thousand granite steps and a health facility foyer opens upward and outward, colorless and cavernous and whole of plastic-smelling air. Mum is going as much as a table and asks anything of a nun in the back of the glass. The health center nuns put on white aprons and brutally starched wimples. those behavior resemble these of the 1st nuns of my acquaintance, the Sisters of Mercy—the “Irish nuns”—at St. Athanasius in Rumford. We’d began our parochial education there, boarding a bus on the Knights of Columbus corridor each morning and driving to Franklin highway, 3 miles from French-nun St. Theresa’s. St. A’s were Mum’s first and most sensible wish for Betty’s Catholic schooling, anything she and pop had mentioned ceaselessly with Father Bob. Mum: Sister Stella Maris, she’s specially attracted to childrens like Betty. Father Bob: Oh, certain. definite certainly, she’s made very good pro-gress. yet then got here the hair-raising information: not more college bus from Mexico to Rumford. Dad left for paintings too early to force us, so off we went in our new uniforms for our one-minute stroll to the scary “French nuns” of St. Theresa’s. shock: We already knew the mandatory words, plus the entire textual content of the Hail Mary (Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâce . . . ), due to our having cleaved to Mrs. Gagnon’s each mellifluous be aware. At Irish St. A’s I’d recognized a bit boy named David who sledded into the killing direction of a motor vehicle. Black hair, white-white pores and skin, snappy eyes, the easiest aloud-reader in my second-grade category, with a crystalline, clarifying voice. Sister Germaine herded us into church for the weekday funeral, a small casket as white and good and uncrackable as a January freeze. Mum yelped with helpless anger while I got here domestic and advised her the place I’d been, yet she needn’t have anxious; at seven years outdated I didn’t recognize the field had a boy in it. Sister’s speech approximately demise hadn’t registered, so I drew my very own conclusions. whilst David’s mom floated into church in her half-buttoned iciness coat and little veiled hat, I took her for a ghost; anyone had died and that i guessed it should have been her. Her cold face, her swollen eyes, a dwelling individual tired of lifestyles. A shadow of that imaginative and prescient hovers as Father Bob appears—alive, yet no longer in his blacks, inching down what turns out now an incredible, old-mansion staircase, the type made for Grace Kelly’s front in a single of these romantic videos he enjoyed.

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