White Flag
by Judy L. Mandel
Legacy Book Press

"The obit is a testament to our collaborative dishonesty. Upholding the illusion, even in death."

Getting lost in life makes being found worthwhile in the same way as experiencing night, knowing the day will come; it provides hope. When Judy spots her niece’s face—in a police mugshot of all places—a deluge of emotions encompasses her as she reminisces on her family’s life-altering moments and attempts to rehabilitate her niece, Cheryl.

Mandel’s memoir revolves around her desperate attempt to connect with Cheryl, to help rid herself of the guilt that she couldn’t do more for her own sister and niece, and Cheryl’s own attempt to eradicate her inner demons and tackle the shame and guilt of addiction head-on. The author leaves no stone unturned, whether it is through the vulnerable jailhouse letters from Cheryl, the suspected abuse at the hands of Cheryl’s stepfather, or her Facebook posts that act as a facade hiding the wounded soul underneath.

In the middle of the book, Judy talks about red flags that she could have spotted, but fittingly, the title represents the need for all addicts to unconditionally surrender and embrace what plagues them rather than hide in shame. As the work progresses, there is a definite emphasis on understanding the catalyst, the turning point that could take an animal-loving, full-of-life child and put her on a path destined for calamity.

Mandel’s memoir is raw and uncut, a visceral and gut-wrenching work that cuts to the core of understanding addiction, generational trauma, and grief. The ramifications of one’s experiences seem to always follow people like a shadow, yet it is particularly mind-boggling when a history of depression and anxiety is swept under the rug in favor of the perception of normalcy, oftentimes even in death. Mandel’s work seeks to correct such tendencies, exposing the truth in a poignant and heart-wrenching manner that is also highly readable.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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