About the book:
Judy Mandel is the replacement child for her sister who was killed in a tragic accident. It would be years before she would understand how the event, that happened before she was born, shaped her life.
A plane crashes into a family’s home. A two-year-old girl is critically burned and a mother is forced to make an impossible choice. The death of a child leaves a hole in the family that threatens to tear it apart.
In a great act of hope, the parents give birth to a "replacement child," born to heal wounds and provide a "salve for the burns." The child unwittingly plays her role throughout childhood, riding the deep and hidden currents of the family tragedy.
In this powerful story of love and lies, hope and forgiveness, Judy Mandel discovers the truth that changes her life forever and forces her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister. When she has her own child, her epiphany comes full circle.
How Writing Replacement Child Changed Me
I may be oversimplifying. But, I know other writers feel this way toward those who don’t subject themselves to the self prescribed torture that may or may not emerge as a piece of art. Let’s face it, sometimes the result is just crap. Brain vomit. No doubt the essay or story had its origins in a lofty premise, an anguish that needed to be recorded for all time, an insight not to be dismissed or unshared; but it still may end up a crushed ball, or a deleted file, giving us some measure of satisfaction in destroying it beyond readability.
Despite the agony to find the right words, we can’t seem to stop. We writers feel we are wasting time if we are not doing it. As Gloria Steinem said:
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Through the entire writing of Replacement Child, I was afraid I was spewing incomprehensible dribble. Even through the thirteenth and last revision, I wondered if I got it right. It seems impossible to shake the doubt.
What I know now is that I had no choice but to write the story. When authors say writing their memoir was a journey, we are not talking about a cruise in the Mediterranean. It’s more like a trek along the Appalachian Trail with a limited water supply and thin-soled shoes. I was parched and ragged at the end.
Graham Greene said this about writing, which explains a great deal about why I had to write my memoir:
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
My particular journey led me to an understanding of my fears, my choices, and possibly my future, that I could not have arrived at in any other way. Conventional therapy didn’t touch on my replacement child status. But writing through my family’s tragedy, from their different perspectives, gave me the ability to look at myself as a character in a story; dispassionately dissecting the origins of my own strengths and failings.
Knowing that I was susceptible to the questions of identity and worth that go along with being a replacement child, after I stumbled on that insight, I understood why I never felt like I belonged. Why I looked to men to validate my worth. It had started with my family. Of course.
When I understood, through my research and writing, the reality of a plane crashing into my parents’ home, killing my sister and changing all of our lives—I had my first awareness of how I came to my view of the world. Before writing Replacement Child, I only knew how I felt; now I understood why.
When planes fall out of the sky into your mother’s kitchen, you know deep in your bones that anything can happen.
About Judy L. Mandel
Judy L. Mandel made her living as a marketing professional for over 20 years before writing her first book, Replacement Child. She grew up in New Jersey, but when she went to college in Connecticut, she knew she had found her home.
Her writing life began as a newspaper reporter. She later worked in public relations and advertising and somehow found herself in corporate communications at various insurance companies. Her memoir grew out of early essays and the promise she made to her family to tell their story.
Judy now balances her business writing for clients with writing fiction, nonfiction and articles.
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