Uncovering one family’s secrets: Where are the grown-ups? by Ruth Badley
Where are the Grown-ups? is a true story that takes the reader through three generations of an East End Jewish family. Part history, part memoir, Ruth’s search to uncover long-buried secrets brings understanding and acceptance to what was a complex and often painful mother-daughter relationship. It deals with family dynamics, and how misunderstandings can shape us and leave their indelible mark to linger long after we’ve become adults.
The book ‘begins at the end,’ as Ruth’s mother lay dying in hospital, with Ruth reflecting on their fraught relationship and her childhood in 1960’s Stepney. As often happens in these situations, she feels a need to delve into her family history to answer unspoken questions, and the book travels back to the 1930’s, where family secrets are buried. Ruth’s maternal grandmother had died in childbirth, yet no one talked about it. Why? The details are sketchy and now, there’s no one who remembers what happened, or, if they do, they aren’t saying.
The characters are sharply etched and keenly observed, and there is a poignancy and rawness in the way Ruth describes her childhood, in particular, depicting the angst that accompanies one’s coming of age.
Ruth’s search to uncover the mysteries of her family history takes the reader back in time to an East End that is very different from today, yet her story will resonate with those who have had difficult family relationships. It reminds us that our parents are not one-dimensional, as we so often assume, and that they have their own demons to conquer. It’s also a testament to familial love, however convoluted that can be, and that, alongside age and the wisdom of experience, forgiveness and understanding often come late in the day.
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Where are the grown-ups? is available at the Brick Lane Bookshop and Newham Bookshop as well as online.
Images: Ruth Badley