Arts » Written + Spoken Word

Review: The beauty of what remains

Family Lost, Family Found


By Susan Johnson Hadler

She Writes Press, paperback $16.95, E-book $9.95

4 stars

Moving from estrangement to connection," (p. 200) "Love was ...returning to this family that had been shattered by shame and the silence that followed," (p.198) is the coda story as Susan Johnson Hadler searched to learn about her father, 2nd Lt. David S. Johnson Jr., who died on April 12, 1945 in service with 782 Tank Battalion in Germany.

Hadler was three months old when her father died. Like so many other war widows left to look after small children, Hadler's mother shut out the loss, silencing the young Susan when she asked about her father — what was he like and what she and her older brother might share in common with his traits, his personality? The desire to connect was denied and buried deep.

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of Liberation in the final phase of World War II, and at her own 50th birthday, Hadler embarked on a quest to learn about her father, perhaps not wanting to acknowledge how this would further strain her relationship with her mother or shatter her connection with her brother.

The narrative is gripping in the premise alone, but the entire story is hauntingly universal. We learn how Hadler's mother's choices were connected with hidden family history. Silence cuts deeply into soul, splinters and slices and cuts us off. Hadler's story toward finding herself through her father leads to learning about her mother's sisters from whom her mother had chosen to disconnect.

Reading like detective fiction, this memoir holds truths for all of us. Discovery is at the core, not only about family but equally about the larger world events that surround and shape us through ignorance, misinformation and denial.

Nov. 4, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Book signing and talk) "The Propylaeum, 1410 N. Delaware St.


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