Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My take on: Girl Unbroken

If I ever met the Calcaterra siblings, I would want to give them a big hug. Girl Unbroken is the story of a horrific and abusive childhood, written by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney. This is the followup to Regina's book, Etched in Sand.

Girl Unbroken is Rosie's story.

The Calcaterrra siblings, Cherie, Camille, Regina, Norm, and Rosie, were saddled with the worst mother ever. Cookie Calcaterra gave birth to five children, but that doesn't make her a mother. She was in and out of her children's lives. She was known as "Hurricane Cookie," and that's a very accurate description. Cookie drank heavily, she stole from everyone, she wrote bad checks, and worst of all she took her anger out on her kids. Rosie was often on the receiving end of Cookie's rages.

Rosie and her siblings were split off into different foster homes. Rosie and Norm were able to stay together, but at a price. They bounced between dangerous foster homes and their equally dangerous mother. As a child, Rosie held tight to her belief that her sisters would save her. Unlike Cookie, Rosie knew her sisters loved her and worried about her. While in foster care, Rosie and Norm were allowed brief visits with their sisters, but Cookie thwarted them at every turn. To the outside world, Cookie put on a show and portrayed the part of a doting mother. She fooled social workers. Rosie even started to believe her mother cared about her. After complaining about the physical and emotional abuse they suffered at their last foster home, Cookie kidnapped Rosie and Norm -- eventually obtaining legal custody. Rescuing her children from the horrors of foster care was Cookie's way of showing how much she loved them. But that "love" was short lived.

Moving from one man to the next, and one seedy Long Island hotel to the next, Cookie and her kids eventually settled in a small Idaho town. Cookie latched onto a lecherous farmer named Clyde. All the while, Rosie continued to bear the brunt of Cookie's anger. Every bad thing that happened to Cookie was her children's fault, especially Rosie. Beaten physically and emotionally into submission, Rosie was forced to work the farm day and night. Norm had farm chores, but nowhere near the extent of Rosie. When she wasn't working the farm, Rosie buried herself in extracurricular activities and sleepovers with friends. She did anything and everything to avoid going home, even to the point of physical exhaustion. How would this cycle ever end? Who was going to help them? Attempts for escape, for freedom, for normalcy were always destroyed by Cookie.

I admire Regina and Rosie for being able to go back to that dark place in their childhoods. The foster care system failed this family big time. Even in the present day, the foster care system is still failing children. This is one book and one story, but hopefully it opens some eyes. This was an engaging but hard book to read. This is a story of survival and a very worthy read.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (William Morrow) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.


  1. Stories like this break my heart but it is so important that they are told so that they are less likely to happen again.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  2. I just finished Etched In Sand and am now reading Girl Unbroken. I, too, would give them each a huge hug and congratulations for overcoming horrendous obstacles. Both of these books weight heavily on me and I go forward thinking of what can I do to make foster children's lives better. As a quilt guild member, I made quilts for kids who were "aging out" of the foster care system at age 18. This applied even if the child had not finished high school! At least they had something to keep them warm.