Julie Mannix Von Zerneck and Kathy Hatfield
Hear the voice of young woman whose fears are real, whose freedoms have been taken from her and whose only crime was that she loved someone and wound up pregnant. Julie’s voice comes through loud and clear from page one where she describes her living nightmare. Forced to leave the private hospital where she was receiving good care, her parents decided to place her in a state mental hospital for the insane. Why? Because she dared to embarrass them, want to keep her child and not have an abortion and make sure she was hidden away until her child was born. Even worse she would be forced to place her daughter up for adoption her parental rights completely gone. As you take the journey along with Julie and hear her voice as she relates her first encounter with the other inmates you might say you understand the fear she had, the unhappiness within her heart and the reasons why she reverted into herself.
November 22, 1963 is a day that no one will ever forget. Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and the entire world mourned. But, strangely enough so did the patients in this mental hospital along with the staff. Even stranger how the patients were able to react normally at times and then go off with behaviors indicative of those in a mental institution. They seemed at times transfixed or mesmerized by the newscasts and the media hype related to Kennedy’s death. When it ended so did they in many ways. But, when the final shovel covered his grave and the news media and hype died down the end result would be more than just frightening to Julie who knew she was in the wrong place, did not belong in this hospital but whose voice was more than just silenced. As Julie tells her story and relates what brought her to this hospital she flashes back in time to when she was born, her life with her parents who spent more time traveling and concerned with their careers than with her, and then to her fears, hopes and dreams for getting out of this hospital. From the first words and the start of this book you can feel the emotions, the sadness, the urgency in the author’s voice when sharing her story. She also includes short paragraphs leading up to the birth of her daughter, explaining to the reader the child’s growth within her mother before she is born.
But, Julie describes her life living in the state mental hospital, dealing with the other patients, befriending a girl named Theresa, wishing she would not harm herself, protected by someone she called Mafia Whore and many others that would impact her life and her memory. Reverting to the past we meet the nuns of Sacred Heart in the many different places that she went to school. But, one woman named Mother Hunter would remain in her heart and mind forever, as she was her designated Nun who nurtured her and took care of her. Moving to a new home with her parents she missed the nuns but loved the new house. But, you can hear her voice and understand that within the happy times the loneliness prevailed as her parents spent more time writing books, creating their own lives and enjoying the accolades they received.
Julie received love from her brother and the one constant in her life her Aunt Aimee. There are others and many other times that she shares in part One of this memoir which ends with the birth of her daughter and some amazing and heart felt photos allowing readers to get to know her family more closely.
As a raging volcano can take aim at the unsuspecting people and land devastated in its wake, or a cyclone or tornado that destroys everything in sight, so the secret storms raged within Julie each time she could not express her inner most thoughts and feelings to those in charge of the state mental hospital causing her to become somewhat like the rest. Sadly we learn more about her stay at the mental hospital and meeting Frank the father of her child. Their courtship unique, her first job a breath of fresh air and the end result would be tragic in some respects. Learning the many roles she undertook, working at the Westbury Music Theater and making lifelong friends Julie’s story is both heart wrenching and heartwarming leading up to the birth of Aimee which will bring more than must a few tears to the eyes of readers. Next, we meet Kathy, her daughter and learn about her parents, her arrival in this world and her early life. Adopted right after Julie gave birth she never knew for a very long time that she was adopted. Not until her adopted mother passed away and her father remarried would she learn the truth.
Life with her stepmother started out smoothly but the end result would be four years of abuse at the hand of this woman. Blinded by her and not really seeing what she was doing to his children, he went as far to adopt hers and what the stark truth came out and Kathy learned that she was adopted things changed drastically and her life became a nightmare. But, not everything stayed the same and when Gloria finally leaves things change, their lives are relatively normal and now she wants to know more about her birth mother. But, finding her was no easy task and trying to convince her brothers as to her reasoning harder. You see, they were adopted too. Imagine how she felt when her stepsister for whatever reason tells her she was adopted.
The storms raged within Julie at times, her frustrations rise and then her life changes as she decides to give up acting and becomes the owner of a bookstore. Imagine having a role in General Hospital, Secret Storms and The Doctors. Imagine being in plays on the Broadway stage. Her husband Frank was now making films all over the world, they were traveling to many places all over the world but what comes through are her innermost thoughts as she justifies her feelings, her reasons for what she does and how she feels and the fact that no one expects anything from her at times. No matter how successful Julie became or has become her depression shined through at times and impacted her life.
Both authors have different voices that are presented yet both have been through many hard times but maybe not in the same way. Yet if you think about it they were both cheated out of knowing the other for such a long time. One a mother whose child was literally taken or ripped out of her hands and the other not knowing she even existed until someone accidentally on purpose blurted out the truth. Following Julie and Part Three: the pictures of Patty McCormack who I know is a great actress, Julie and Frank are priceless.
Then, Kathy meets Bryan Hatfield and her life takes on a new meaning. But before the calm comes more of a storm as her life would change even more. Her father lost his job, they lost their home and she would move on to live on her own. Life was hard for her and taking care of herself even more difficult but marriage a blessing. Then, things would change as the information needed to reunite her or unite her with Julie just might come and what she learns about her birth parents quite compelling. How they connect and what she learns I think I will leave that to the reader to learn as some mysteries you need to solve on your own. Read the letter that Kathy writes to Julie and I guarantee you will need more than just a few tissues. Heartfelt, heartwarming and definitely the start of something special for both mother, daughter and of course father.
Imagine the meeting and imagine getting to know each other. Read this outstanding memoir and learn what happens when a miracle occurs, someone answers their prayers and 46 years apart melt away and their lives become one. Brothers and sisters meeting for the first time. Grandchildren meeting uncles and aunts and two women who would never be apart again. An epilogue that is quite compelling and a young girl whose visions about herself changed as she entered the world as the daughter of a well-known executive producer. The ending you have to read for yourself and where they are and how their lives intertwine will allow readers to know that some storms that rage really hard often die down when you least expect it and the sun comes out. Check out the photos at the end and make sure you read the book. This is one outstanding memoir. Can you hear the voices of Julie and Kathy? I can. Once they were apart and now they are often heard together.
Fran Lewis: reviewer