If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.  In turn, your children will be a continuation of you.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Our teacher reminds us that we are not separate from our ancestors; we inherit their talents and their flaws, their joy and their suffering.  That is why, when a piece of our family history is missing, a part of us is missing and we can feel it.  And because family secrets usually hide stories of suffering, it takes great courage to do the work of unearthing what is hidden, of making whole what has been denied, often for generations.

This is the journey Susan Hadler takes us on.  We follow the question that has been niggling at her for most of her life:  Who was her father, a man who died at the end of WWII, just three months after she was born?  In the process, Susan discovers much that she hadn’t bargained for, including finding a mentally ill aunt who had been neglected by the family for over fifty years.  She experiences the delight of meeting new family members, while alienating some who worked hard to keep these stories untold for decades.

Susan’s prose is clear and unadorned, which makes it easy to follow her through the ups and downs of this reclamation.  As Susan weaves in how her Buddhist practice helped her on this rocky road of discovery, the reader learns of the persistence, determination, patience, and kindness it takes to do this deep work.  We also feel her growing empathy for those who couldn’t face the pain and so hid the stories.

We can use Susan’s journey as a model for how to stay honest and authentic while we uncover the wounds and hidden places in our own family histories and in ourselves.  We can take heart from Susan’s story as we try to stay clear-eyed, traveling through our own past.  We know this is crucial work; when we heal our wounds and those of our families, we help to heal our children and future generations.  If you need a nudge of inspiration or a guide to help you on your way, this book may be just the ticket.