In 1980s Romania, Carmen Bugan’s father wrote anti-Communist propaganda, an illegal act that led to the family having to flee the country in 1989. But of course, as a kid, Bugan had no idea what was going on. It wasn’t until she started searching for answers as an adult that she learned of her father’s secret. This is the retelling of her discovery.
Bugan uses short, concise sentences that pack in all the emotional details of her unusual childhood as if she’s still experiencing them today. From describing what it was like being held captive in her own home by the state police when she was only 13, to detailing her father’s frail appearance during his stint in a military prison, Bugan has no problem tugging at a reader’s heartstrings. But she does have a problem getting to the action. Bugan’s firsthand account takes too long to discuss why her father chose to put his whole family in danger, or how her mother could live with his lies. It isn’t until halfway through the book, when we learn about her father’s double life, that this memoir becomes a true page-turner. This longtime poet does show, though, that she understands what makes for good storytelling. Less skillful writers would be heavy handed with the idea of the “buried typewriter,” her father’s weapon of choice when it came to fighting the system, but Bugan makes it a symbol for everything her family ever tried to hide away.
By Shannon Carlin
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