Finding Annie Farrell
A Family Memoir
Beth J. Harpaz

St. Martin's Press
288 pages
Size: 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Includes 16 b&w photos throughout
Hardcover Thomas Dunne Books
Pub Date: 02/2004
ISBN: 0-312-30151-0

Finding Annie Farrell is a stirring memoir of a daughter's search for her mother's secret history. This true story begins in the depths of the Great Depression, when a woman dies in childbirth in Mechanic Falls, Maine, leaving behind five daughters and a newborn son. Their father names the baby Franklin Delano Roosevelt Farrell, but the family's faith in a faraway president cannot protect them from poverty, fires and floods. They lose their home on the banks of the Little Androscoggin River; the children are sent to live with strangers, and their father goes to jail.
One girl, Annie Farrell, moves to New York with glamorous dreams of becoming a model. She marries a war hero who fought with the 101st Airborne in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and together they raise their own family.
But away from the evergreens and lakes of her native Maine, surrounded by the decay of Manhattan in the 1960s and '70s, Annie Farrell falls into a numbing depression. Trapped in a housewife's role, and haunted by her Dickensian childhood, she withdraws. Only when she travels to Maine each summer to vacation in a rustic cottage on a lake does she come alive again.
Twenty years after Annie Farrell's death, her daughter, Beth Harpaz, embarks on a journey to explain her mother's relentless sorrow and to understand why those summer sojourns in Maine were the magic cure for her ills. The author mines the memories of her four elderly aunts, discovering two hidden brothers and other family secrets along the way. And she undertakes a genealogical hunt that goes back 200 years, uncovering among her ancestors a mysterious Indian great-grandma, French Acadians, and Michael Farrell, an Irish immigrant from whom hundreds of North Americans are descended. Most importantly, she finds the keys to her mother's nightmares, and finally understands why Annie Farrell could never let go of the forest primeval.

Return to Contents