Originally an American girl who later planted roots in England, the author of this memoir, Mikey Cuddihy shares the intimate details of her life as an orphan. She focuses at length on her time spent at the experimental English school, Summerhill. This link shows a clip from a documentary; wherein the founder of Summerhill states his views on how to properly raise children in a “free” environment. Students were not forced to go to classes. Rules made were done so democratically and a child could choose to do whatever they wanted (or nothing at all). They could do so for years – as long as it did not impact someone other than them self or make the school publicly seen in a negative light.
The book cover shows a subtitle that stuck in this reviewer’s mind throughout the majority of the story: The story of a lost childhood. With each time period and situation Mikey relayed, I found myself wondering when the “ball would drop” and the horrific truth to a childhood lost would be explained. It reads as though snippets of time were documented over the years and relayed with a childlike view. Part one’s chapters loosely document events in sequential order and leave the reader with many questions (which the author undoubtedly had, as well, at the time).
It is not until part two that loose ends begin to be tied together and the writing style is more adult (the thoughts and events more telling and complete). If it were possible to discuss what constituted the declaration of her childhood being “lost” without spoiling the book, it could be discussed at length. That said, it was worth it to make it to the big reveal. Many of us can relate to the heavily burdening unanswered questions of our youth and how they contributed to who we become and the choices we make in our lives.
With much of the story being written from the viewpoint/knowledge base of a child, it often created more questions than gave answers. That same childlike telling contributes to a real sense of empathy for her plight. It stimulates open-minded readers synapses to fire in question of societal constraints and cultural requirement. What does and does not have positive or negative impact on our children? Has Mikey Cuddihy forgiven and let go of the burden placed on her by the decision of the faulty party (that so heavily affected she and her siblings lives)?
Overall, it is thought provoking and a bit intriguing. It furthers this reviewers opinion of children needing the love and connection of a family; even if not by blood. It shows the benefit of allowing children to embrace what they are most drawn to, rather than forcing memorization of facts that will never apply to them. It promotes the necessity of at least a certain amount of normalcy and structure in a child’s (and adult’s, for that matter) routine – providing a sense of security and belonging. Most of all, it tells the story of a woman who rose above unusual circumstance to become a well-rounded, healthy, and successful artist, writer, and guitar player.
You can follow Mikey Cuddihy on Twitter HERE.