Reviewed by Alyssa Katanic
Every once in awhile you come across a story that is heartbreaking to read, but whose triumph is so inspiring that it can’t be missed. That is Etched in Sand, the autobiography of Regina Calcaterra. Regina Calcaterra takes away any excuse that any of us can come up with for not working hard to succeed at achieving our dreams.
Being neglectfully left in charge of her younger siblings for weeks or months at a time, with no food or money, at an age as young as eleven years old, while her older siblings hid out at a friend’s house and her mother was going from bed to bed and bar to bar, Regina actually found herself to be happier and safer than when her mother was at home. To Regina, “Mom’s home!” meant physical, verbal and emotional abuse, but Mom never stayed around for very long. Regina never knew her father, though she was told that it was because she was his daughter that her mother treated her even worse than she did the rest of her five children.
As with many abused children, school became a refuge for Regina, and when she wasn’t overly distracted by her home life, she was able to do quite well. However, the teachers often noticed her starved frame and the bruises she couldn’t hide. At these times, Regina might come home to find social services at her house. With her older siblings home, they found the strength to stick together and make up stories to put off being taken into foster care, a place where they could end up in a good home, or face new dangers like separation from each other and sexual abuse from foster brothers. Then came the day when Regina was so marked up from her mother’s abuse and so weary from having to handle it all without her older siblings, that she told the social workers everything. At fourteen, Regina Calcaterra was emancipated from her mother’s abuse, but also lost what little control she had over the situations her younger siblings would now have to face without their three older siblings to protect them.
In the years to follow, Regina would fight for her younger siblings, rejoice with her older siblings in their survival, over coming odds, and succeeding in establishing healthy families of their own, and work hard to get through college, gain impressive internships, graduate law school, and win a precedent setting case that demanded that her father submit to DNA testing and bring closure to her life long questioning of who she is and why her mother treated her so badly for his sake.
Reality is not always “happily ever after” and all neatly wrapped up by the last page, yet Etched in Sand does work out very triumphantly in many aspects, and it is encouraging to see how these siblings survived and learned how to thrive and support each other despite their childhood… or, in some regards, because of their childhood.
Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 6 children under 10 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.