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Crafted from slivers of reminiscence and reflection, Joan Wheelis’s beautifully written memoir explores the intricacies of attachment and the perils of love and inevitable loss.
We glimpse the author’s childhood in San Francisco and her relationship with her distinguished psychoanalyst parents through a series of jewel-like vignettes. She explores her past through her questions about life and the lessons her parents taught her about the existence of God, how to cut a napoleon and build a fire, and the hazards of self-deception.
Into this tapestry of memory Wheelis, also a psychoanalyst, weaves profound reflections from adulthood. Wrestling with the loss of her parents, the author faces the questions of what matters and what remains of their lives. She reckons with their histories and legacies, tracing the heritage of love and conflict through the generations. As she revisits the rooms and landscapes of her past, her prose takes on the poetic logic of memory itself.
About the Author: Joan Wheelis, MD, is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She attended Harvard College, Boston University School of Medicine, and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. A psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst, she lives and practices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Joan Wheelis has given us a rare memoir that lies somewhere between poetry and prose. She grabs the reader and takes them on a journey into her past that is richly rendered and deeply moving. Her father, Allen Wheelis, was our psychoanalytic poet of existential despair, and his point of view is beautifully portrayed in a conversation with the author about the existence of God and in the way he built a fulfilling life in a godless world. Her mother was a distinguished psychoanalyst who lost her parents in the Holocaust and kept private treasures that helped her to remember the past. The Known, the Secret, the Forgotten depicts a remarkable and loving family building a life despite a legacy of trauma and despair. I highly recommend it to all who struggle to preserve meaning in this time of uncertainty.” - Glen O. Gabbard, MD, author of Love and Hate in the Analytic Setting
“An exquisitely written evocation of familial love and loss. … Haunting and beautiful.” - Cornelia Nixon, author of The Use of Fame
“[A] marvelously evocative and poetic memoir. Joan Wheelis writes deftly about love, loss, and legacy in this pithy and poignant book about her parents. She brings her mother and father alive with the delicate, pointillist paintbrush of an artist and the wisdom and insight of a psychoanalyst.” - Adam Hochschild, author of author of Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays and King Leopold’s Ghost