Crais suffers from chronic childhood amnesia, the most common and least understood form of the malady. His New Orleans childhood is a blank to him, except for a few vague "snapshot" memories he can only place in time by the memories of others. He becomes a historian, and applies the methods of his profession in an attempt to find those missing memories. He brings in the insights of neurological research into brain development, without learning much more. His older siblings, who apparently lived through much worse trauma than he did, stay mired in the problems of their parents. Did his ability to transcend them, and end up a history professor, depend on his efforts, however unsuccessful, to understand his childhood trauma? The neurological explanations he seeks are the weakest part of the book, for me. When he stays closest to his family and his search to know his own past, he's the strongest. I wanted to weep for his suffering, but his own resilience made me cheer instead.
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