Luxenberg visits a special school Annie attended and searches through academic records. Later he pursues hospital and court orders. Through letters, documents, and fragments of past information he obtains with great difficulty, he interviews Annie’s hospital caretakers; bit by bit, he collects segments of his aunt's troubled life.
- She lived at home with family in a tiny apartment for the first 20 years of life.
- Because of a severely deformed right leg, she attended Leland School for Crippled Children.
- She fell far behind other students and was given a faux degree from 9th grade at age 18.
- Her badly impaired leg was amputated in favor of an artificial limb.
- Her ongoing mental deterioration became an embarrassment to family and relatives.
- She was dismissed from a vocational school because of strange, disturbing behavior.
- Although Annie claimed she was sexually assaulted, her family did not support her.
Annie’s mental state continues to decline. A neurologist at Harper Hospital issues a diagnosis of “Congenital cerebral anomaly,” which Luxenberg understands as brain damage during birth. A later diagnosis was two-fold: Mental Deficiency and Schizophrenia. This profound verdict insured Annie's placement in Eloise Mental Hospital.
Although the understanding and treatment of mental illness is quite different from what it was in Annie’s early years, sadly enough, Luxenberg wonders all through Annie’s Ghosts why it was so shameful to admit her plight. He still has the greatest respect for his mother, but it is difficult for him to imagine the disgrace her family must have suffered to turn Annie into a nameless ghost.
I would recommend this book to any reader seeking a good novel, even though it is mostly a narrative. Between various chapters, Luxenberg tells his own story about the difficulties of growing up in Detroit. His personal tale gives the reader an awareness of the dignity, respect, and honor families held for one another. Interestingly enough, you will see how other Depression-era secrets of the Luxenbergs were cleverly shoved aside and buried.
Steve Luxenberg paints his characters carefully. He gives away Annie’s secret and other secrets with enough caution to make you want to keep turning pages. His story explains why a child, who began to act psychotically, could easily bring revulsion upon a Jewish family with a good, “decent” name. Hopefully, Annie’s Ghosts will promote positive thinking toward people with mental disorders.