Of Roots and Wings
The St. Francis Orphanage circa 1949 was the epitome of regimented order, reverent obedience, and well kept secrets, but for twenty-three-month-old Beverly and her seven siblings, it represented a strange new world that would serve to disintegrate their family bonds, impose dehumanizing discipline, and inflict unspeakable abuse. Of Roots and Wings gives voice to these victims of unimaginable injury, as this uplifting memoir of hope and self-acceptance revisits the unbelievable bizarre, enchanting, heartfelt, and hilarious moments that punctuated author Julie Swope's life.
Adopted by a prominent Italian doctor and his wife, four-year-old Beverly and her younger sister, Georgina, are taken to live in a lavish forty-eight room mansion where they shed their habits of the orphanage and also their names, now becoming Julia and Jeannie. Another sister, Nancy, soon joins them when she is adopted into their new family as Rose Marie. However, the material wealth and physical comfort of their new life do little to address the scars of abuse and molestation the girls endured at St. Francis. Their adoptive home proves to house just as many dark secrets, including sexual abuse at the hands of the doctor and the family's trusted servants.
The inquisitive, indomitable Julia features throughout this spirited narrative as an intrepid guide to all things absurd and peculiar, akin to Alice on her adventures in Wonderland and through the looking glass. For Julia accompanying her father to autopsies, to helping tally income from a hospital-based numbers racket, to watching mink stoles and color televisions be loaded through the back door of the house seems as commonplace as enjoying the "Howdy Doody Show," or having seconds of spaghetti at Sunday dinner.
The story follows Julia from her school years to her becoming a wife and mother at age nineteen in the same year her adoptive mother succumbs to cancer. She completes college but feels unfulfilled in her marriage. She meets Elliot who duplicates her father's dynamics of control and abuse. They marry and adopt four children only to end in a bitter divorce and custody trial.
Once Julia's life is somewhat stabilized she enters therapy for herself and is able to process the impact of her childhood abuses. Of Roots and Wings reclaims and personalizes a past rife with hardship, abuse, dysfunction, and deception, and asserts a sustaining tone of tenacity and humor- fundamental lessons of self discovery and lasting appreciation of what makes each of us special.
Publication Date: October 31, 2012
Print Pages: 422