Etched in Sand #Giveaway, a 5-Star Read

by Jennifer Donovan

5 Minutes for Books contributing editor is here to tell you about her latest 5-Star Read. She was provided a copy of the book for review from TLC Book Tours.

I like reading memoir, but it’s become so popular now that in some ways the quality has declined. I think publishers are clamoring to get the next hot ticket, so anyone who has some sort of story to tell is likely to get published. Now I often find them to be either too explicit, too profane, or too surfacey to be of interest to me, but when it’s done right, memoir is one of my favorite types of books to read.  I recently found one that was done just right.

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island is Regina Calcaterra’s story. You may be asking, “Why would I want to read about an “unspeakable” childhood?” I’ll tell you why.

I once read an apt description of these memoirs that deal with overcoming some sort of obstacle. A reviewer called them our modern day fairy tales. Think about Cinderella, forced to endure a wicked stepmother and stepsisters, to dress in rags and work harder than a young girl should have to. But the hard parts of her story make the fact that she becomes Cinderella even more lovely and worth celebrating. Such it is with Regina Calcaterra. The prologue opens with her in present day, surveying the damage of Hurricane Sandy with the governor and two senators from New York state, serving in her role as chief deputy executive of Suffolk County. With that setup, we know that she is definitely an overcomer. The prologue ends with the story of how she and her siblings would write their names in the sand, only to watch them be erased by the tide where they’d then take the opportunity to create anew. The tone of the memoir is also promised at that time:

We didn’t know it then, but that persistence would become the metaphor to predict how we’d all choose to live our lives. No accomplishment has taken place without trial, and no growth could have occurred without unwavering love. This is the story of the hope it took a community to raise a child. . . and how that child used her future to give hope back (page 4 Advanced Reviewer’s Copy).

This story is riveting. The writing is fluid and captivating. Calcaterra tells some stories in flashback form, but it always serves to better the story and is never confusing or out of place. She tells about emotional and physical abuse, the uncertainty of not knowing her father, homelessness, good and bad experiences within the foster system. But even in the midst of that, she offers glimmers of hope as she trumpets the support and love that she and her siblings had for one another, the help that the community offered them, and the encouragement from teachers and others that helped her keep moving forward.

As I stated above, some memoirists share too much, going too far (or too far for my tastes), while others don’t share enough. Calcaterra walks this line perfectly. There are unspeakable things that she only alludes to, but doesn’t share outright. But there are other trials that she shares honestly, which helped me to understand the trials that kids like this must endure. Knowing stories like this causes me to look at others with compassion. My childhood didn’t have these struggles, and as far as I know, neither did those in my middle-class community, but what I realize, especially after talking to my friends now, is you really never know.

Win it!

I have a copy of Etched in Sand for one of you (U.S. and Canadian shipping addresses are eligible). Just use the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hollowsins August 5, 2013 at 3:19 am

I want to read this simply because it is unique and I like your review of it

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2 Anne August 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

This book would be captivating and special. Thanks for your feature.

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3 Pamalot August 5, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I like to read memoirs because it makes me think about my own life and childhood and current blessings.

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4 DEBIJOT August 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I like to read memoirs because I sometimes like reading non-fiction.

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5 chelsea August 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I love reading memoirs because knowing that its true makes it more exciting for me

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6 chelsea August 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I love reading memoirs because knowing that its true makes it more exciting for me :)

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7 Martha C August 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

I would love this book. I love to read memoirs and autobiographies!!

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8 Dorinne Hammons August 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I love memoirs – I always seem to find a little of myself, and I enjoy learning how other people have overcome struggles and how their life became what it is today…

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9 Jenette August 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I have never read a memoir, I never really thought I would like them. Your review on it has sparked my interest. There are times in life where we all feel like we are sinking and hearing/reading about how others have overcome, is what we need to keep going. If I don’t win this, I will definitely be picking up a copy for myself.

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10 Shari August 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I’ve always loved reading about other people’s stories in their own words. Introduces me to people from ways of life so different from my own.

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11 riTa August 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

A well done memoir! Bring it on!

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12 Jessica T August 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I love knowin that what I’m reading has happened…

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13 Staci A August 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I’ve always found it interesting to see how other people live and what they’ve been through.

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14 kate August 8, 2013 at 7:05 am

My husband is *big* into memoirs. I’ve never found one I’ve adored, but I’m curious about this one.

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15 Kerrie Mayans August 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I like reading non-fiction books and I find memoirs interested because most people who write them have a much more interesting life than my own.

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16 Brandy W. August 9, 2013 at 1:32 am

Your review has got me very interested in this memoir!

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17 Heather J August 9, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Wow, I have never thought about memoirs like fairy tales but that is an excellent description of a well-done memoir!

Thanks for your review for the tour. I’m featuring it on TLC’s Facebook page today.

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18 Mary Beth I August 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm

this review made me want to read the book :)

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19 samantha w August 11, 2013 at 10:49 am

I think it will be a very good read, and I am interested in reading it.

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20 Rebecca August 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I am so excited to read this book! One of my friends is obsessed with it after reading it!

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21 Anita Yancey August 12, 2013 at 10:22 am

I would like to read this book because it sounds interesting. Calcaterra goes through so much, and I have never know anyone who has went through any of these problems. Thanks for having the giveaway.

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22 Theresa J August 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Knowing that something is true is always interesting

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23 Nicole Sender August 17, 2013 at 12:55 am

Memoirs help the reader work through their own issues by reading about others who have struggled and conquered.

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