Growing up so close to Northville, it was common that we would drive past the remains of the mental institute. Northville officially closed the last of its doors in 2003 which meant I would only see the creepy, vandalized and abandoned building in passing. Like most other people in the area, I was always interested. When my teacher recommended Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg, I checked it out immediately. Luxenberg’s family lived in Detroit, where the story is discovered, making it even more fascinating and local.
His mother constantly told stories about growing up an only child, so when she passes away he is dumbfounded by the surprising news that she did indeed have a sister. Curious about who she was and why his mother hid her from the world, Luxenberg tells the story that he has put together from research and inquiry. The book title includes the description of A Journey into a Family’s Secret, and boy is that and understatement. Steve Luxenberg knew practically nothing about who he was looking for so he had to start with the basics and look almost everywhere and ask every person he could think of. Through his investigation he learns more about his family and their secrets then he could ever imagine. This incredible nonfiction story takes you through the history of the mental health system in Michigan during the 1940’s while also piecing together a captivating story about the secrets of the author’s own family.
I highly recommend this book to everyone as it is a nonfiction book that has lots of information but also includes a page turning story. It also exemplifies how much information and technology has increased in many aspects, especially medical. It describes how life was for patients in mental institutes in the 1900’s and opinions from doctors and researchers today looking back on the care and treatment. It is definitely and must read for people in the Metro-Detroit area as it references places and locations that we all know and most have been to. The topic is so interesting and this book gives so much information about it. Just a few days ago my friends were talking about it and had questions about the buildings and the system and I was able to give them accurate and interesting data that I had gotten from Annie’s Ghost.
Book Review by Mary Grace Sinkovich