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Review: Family Sentence

October 30, 2009

Family Sentence

Jeanine Cornillot grew up outside of Philadelphia with her mother, grandmother, aunt and three brothers.  As the youngest of the four children, she doesn’t remember ever living with her father.  Her mother told her these five things about her father:

  1. He is a Cuban revolutionary.
  2. He was sentenced to thirty years in prison for anti-Castro bombings.
  3. We don’t know if he is guilty or innocent.
  4. You are forbidden to talk about his life in prison outside our house.
  5. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is his favorite song.

Jeanine’s home life was happy enough even though her family barely managed to keep their head above water.  She spent time in Miami with her father’s side of the family every summer even though she doesn’t speak Spanish and most of them don’t speak English.  They didn’t talk about her father much either, but they did take Jeanine to visit him in prison a few times.

As a child Jeanine imagined all kinds of things about her father, but sadly, most of them weren’t true, and, as an adult, she is forced to face the reality of who is and decide what role she wants him to have in her life.

Family Sentence: The Search for My Cuban-Revolutionary, Prison-Yard, Mythic-Hero, Deadbeat Dad by Jeanine Cornillot sounded like a book I would just love, but it ended up being just okay for me.  I never really felt connected to the author as a child, although I did when she was an adult.  At times it seemed like the book focused too much on mundane daily things that weren’t relevant to the story.  I did find myself greatly admiring the author’s mother – she never said a bad word about her children’s father, always stayed upbeat and made sure her children visited their father’s family on a regular basis.  The book left me wanting to know more about Jeanine’s feelings as a child.

Jeanine Cornillot has worked in TV and has even won an Emmy Award for producing.  She co-produced a radio documentary based on Family Sentence, which was aired on the BBC.

Review copy provided by Beacon Press via Library Thing Early Reviewer Program.   I am an Amazon Associate.
25 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2009 6:51 am

    The title really caught my attention!

  2. October 30, 2009 7:35 am

    I’m with Mary on this!

  3. October 30, 2009 8:09 am

    Hummm. The summary makes the story seem very interesting, but I’m going to take your work on this — I have so many books to read, I don’t think I’ll add this one to my list.

  4. October 30, 2009 8:37 am

    Aw, sorry to hear it wasn’t as good as you were hoping!

  5. October 30, 2009 8:45 am

    I’m sorry you were disappointed. It does sound like it had the potential to be great!

  6. mariag permalink
    October 30, 2009 9:13 am

    Sounded interesting. Too bad it didn’t deliver.

  7. October 30, 2009 9:50 am

    It sounds really interesting – the cover caught me right away. Thats always a bummer when you are excited to get into a book and find it not what you had hoped.

  8. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 30, 2009 10:19 am

    It does sound interesting, too bad it didn’t quite work for. What a childhood, knowing your father is in prison.

  9. October 30, 2009 11:05 am

    I really like the title of this book, but I’m not sure this book is for me.

  10. October 30, 2009 11:07 am

    It sounds very good. I had to make a paper about Castro and this story sounds very interesting. Too bad with the ending.

  11. October 30, 2009 11:28 am

    I am in agreement with most. It sure sounds like a compelling read…Bummer there wasn’t a connection. Nice review.

  12. October 30, 2009 11:30 am

    This sounds interesting, but if you say it is just ‘okay’ I’ll pass.

  13. October 30, 2009 12:52 pm

    The story sounds like something I’d like to read. Too bad it didn’t live up to the expectations.

  14. October 30, 2009 12:55 pm

    This looks like something I would enjoy, and might check it out at some point just to give it a chance. I really like nonfiction/memoirs. The mom does sound like she was amazing.

  15. October 30, 2009 1:28 pm

    I would agree with you…I would want to know how SHE felt as she was living with this hanging over her head. Sort of a Jeannette Walls thing. I have to admit, though, the title is great!

  16. October 30, 2009 1:55 pm

    This books sounds like it had potential. Sorry it seemed a little disappointing.

  17. October 30, 2009 2:01 pm

    Sounds interesting; I’m not sure it’s for me but it sounds like it wasn’t really for you either. 😦

  18. October 30, 2009 3:19 pm

    Wow, the mum sounds like a really strong character in this book. Sounds like a great read.

  19. October 30, 2009 4:38 pm

    It sounds as if this father was a real enigma, because of his absence from the family.

    Thanks for your honest review.

    A safe and happy Halloween to one and all. 😀

  20. October 30, 2009 7:12 pm

    This is an interesting story and one that hasn’t been told that often. Good review Kathy! 🙂

  21. October 30, 2009 10:47 pm

    Aw, darn. With a title like that, I was really hoping it would be a winner.

  22. October 31, 2009 11:44 am

    I’m sorry to hear this was just okay. What an interesting story the author has; too bad she wasn’t able to make more of it.

  23. October 31, 2009 11:19 pm

    It’s admirable that the mother didn’t malign the father – that’s such a tough line for people to hold when the family falls apart.

    Sorry this one didn’t work out for you; the publisher’s synopsis would have attracted me, too.

  24. November 2, 2009 4:18 pm

    Sorry this book didn’t totally work for you. Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to review memoirs because it feels like you are passing judgment on the author and their life, when in reality, much of the problem lies in the way the story is written. It does sound like an interesting book though.

  25. November 4, 2009 9:43 pm

    I’m really picky about memoirs, so I don’t think this is something I’d read, though the premise is interesting.

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