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Secret Girl: A Memoir    by Molly Bruce Jacob order for
Secret Girl
by Molly Bruce Jacob
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Imagine finding out that you had another sibling, and imagine not finding this out until you were thirteen years old. That's what happened to Molly Bruce Jacob and her sister Laura. While on a family vacation, their father abruptly announced that Laura had a twin sister, Anne, who had lived in a special needs home since birth.

Their sister was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, in 1957. The condition, untreated, results in a large head and causes mental retardation. Back then, children born with hydrocephalus were not expected to live a full life span. The condition is currently treated via use of a shunt, but that was not available to the Jacobs family when Anne was born.

In those days, institutionalization of mentally and physically challenged children was common. However, Jacob's parents all but abandoned Anne; they rarely visited her, never brought her home, almost never mentioned her, and were not tremendously involved in her care. Interestingly, Jacob's family was affluent, and ironically, the author unknowingly attended a private girls' school just a short distance away from the place where Anne had been institutionalized.

It took Jacob another twenty-five years to work up the courage to meet this elusive, secret sister, a meeting that was simultaneously bittersweet and life-changing.

Secret Girl chronicles Jacob's burgeoning relationship with the sister she never knew. It is as much a voyage of self-discovery as a quest for answers as to why Anne was kept a secret. She does not try to excuse her parents for their lack of involvement though she does try to understand it. The book is also a loving tribute to Anne and a reminder of how powerful family ties can be.

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