Heather was six years old when her world was turned upside down. Her mother vanished leaving her family in a tailspin. Heather, along with her brother and sister were forced from a nice home to a dark basement where they lived with their father who never got over the loss of his wife. The children were eventually forced in and out of foster care with their only goals being to find out what happened to their mother and find a new home outside of the basement.
Out From The Underworld by Heather Siegel is a memoir about a dark childhood, but it’s also a story of hope and proof that patterns can be broken. The writing in the story is excellent and the characters seem like people you would see in your every day life, because they are. This is a story about neglect and abandonment but none of the characters in it are bad, they are more like shades of grey. Everyone has their own issues and what we have in this story is three siblings who learned that the only people they could trust 100 % was themselves.
I was impressed with the detailed memories that Heather has of this period of her life and I loved the fact that it seemed like this book was written from a kid’s point of view. Meaning that it wasn’t written from a viewpoint of an adult looking back on her childhood, the impression I got was that Heather was remembering everything from when she was a child and writing it as she saw it from her younger self’s viewpoint.
For instance one of my favorite scenes was early in the book when Heather’s grandma is complaining about her life and says she wishes she could move to Canada. Heather’s sister right away asks what’s stopping her from moving to Canada. Her grandma acts shocked and mentions several reasons why she can’t pick up and leave. I thought this was a great example of how children and adults look at the world differently. For kids its easy as saying this would make me happy so I’m going to do it, while an adult is more cynical and will come up with several reasons why they can’t be happy.
Another thing that really sticks out about Out From The Underworld is the realism. Heather talks about some horrible things in her childhood but she describes good times also. She brings up some fond memories of one of the foster families she lived with but we hear of the family’s dark side as well. We also hear how everyones lives get better when Heather’s father gets a regular girlfriend but things eventually go bad. Another shade of grey in Heather’s life is her father. There are several instances in the book where you see that he is not really a good parental figure, but you also see instances where he shows love for his kids and because of his own upbringing never knew how to be a real father.
Out From The Underworld is a coming of age story by a woman who has suffered through more than most people suffer through. You hear about Heather’s world view and you see her opinions on life, working and school change as she gets older. The best part of this book though is that all the kids in the book managed to go on and live happy lives, but not all the people in the book had the same transformation. I think Out From The Underworld is a great example of how a memoir should be written and I hope other people who live under similar circumstances read this book and learn that it is possible to escape the cycle of a bad home life.