What We Inherit
In the wake of her mother’s death, Jessica Pearce Rotondi uncovers boxes of letters, declassified CIA reports, and newspaper clippings that bring to light a family ghost: her uncle Jack, who disappeared during the CIA-led Secret War in Laos in 1972. The letters lead her across Southeast Asia in search of the truth that has eluded her family for decades.In 1943, 19-year-old Edwin Pearce jumps from a burning B-17 bomber over Germany. Missing in action for months, his parents finally learn he is a prisoner of war in Stalag 17. Ed survives nearly three years in prison camp and a march across the Alps before returning home. Ed’s eldest son and namesake, Edwin “Jack,” follows his father into the Air Force. But on the night of March 29, 1972, Jack’s plane vanishes over the mountains bordering Vietnam and Ed’s past comes roaring into the present. "What We Inherit" is Rotondi’s story of her own hunt for answers as she retraces her grandfather’s 1973 path across Southeast Asia in search of his son. An excavation of inherited trauma on a personal and national scale, "What We Inherit" reveals the power of a father’s refusal to be silenced and a daughter’s quest to rediscover her voice in the wake of loss. As Rotondi nears the last known place Jack was seen alive, she grows closer to understanding the mystery that has haunted her family for generations—and the destructive impact of a family secret so big it encompassed an entire war. Praise for "What We Inherit":"Jessica Pearce Rotondi brilliantly probes the mysteries of a secret war while simultaneously exploring the secrets of her own family, to give us a book about coming to terms with many kinds of loss. Exceptional."—Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning author of "Midnight's Children"“A beautiful amalgam of memoir, travelogue, and investigative report that moves with the propulsive forward energy of a thriller. A haunting chronicle of loss and redemption." —Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Alexander Hamilton" “'What We Inherit' is a strikingly original debut, a moving saga of love and grief that shows how world events reshaped three generations of one American family. Jessica Pearce Rotondi discovers that courage exists not only on battlefields, but even in the most ordinary kitchens.” —Kate Bolick, bestselling author of "Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own" “Written like a spy novel and delivered like a whistleblower’s account of government deception, I felt like I was holding my breath until the very last page... This book shook my deepest assumptions about America." —Sebastian Junger, award-winning author of "The Perfect Storm" "An inspiring and revealing story of one family’s pursuit of the truth about their son." -Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW"'What We Inherit' is a powerful book about how we make sense of unfathomable loss—and about the realization that all loss is unfathomable. In our current world, with so much war and pain, this is the book we need." —Eva Hagberg, author of "How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Life-Saving Friendship" “A triumph of investigative family history. A skillful and lyrical retelling of a mystery discovered largely upon her mother's death, this book is a reminder of how the suffering that remains after war can haunt us for generations.”
—Joel Whitney, author of "Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers" and a founder of Guernica "I devoured this book in one breathless gulp. A seamless blend of love, loss and legacy, this utterly gripping account of one woman's search to uncover a family mystery in the wake of her mother's death is at once heartbreaking and gorgeously hopeful. This is exactly the kind of compulsively-readable memoir I'm always hoping to find, but so rarely do." —Claire Bidwell Smith, author of "The Rules of Inheritance""In her powerful, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching first book, Rotondi explains how in 2009, after her mother's death, she found boxes of files, newspaper clippings, and declassified CIA reports regarding her Uncle Jack and the family's search for him."—Booklist

What We Inherit Details

TitleWhat We Inherit
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 21st, 2020
PublisherThe Unnamed Press
ISBN-139781951213077
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, History

What We Inherit Review

  • Eryn Eaton
    January 1, 1970
    I dont often read a book in one day, but What We Inherit grabbed me from the first sentence and I couldnt put it down until I was down. Its beautifully written, powerful, heart wrenching and poignant. Highly recommend. I don’t often read a book in one day, but What We Inherit grabbed me from the first sentence and I couldn’t put it down until I was down. It’s beautifully written, powerful, heart wrenching and poignant. Highly recommend.
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  • Pari
    January 1, 1970
    A non-fiction that reads like a page-turning fiction. Impressively researched and captivating. Strongly recommend.
  • Javanika Mody
    January 1, 1970
    A must read
  • Kristin Shaver
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished reading What We Inherit. I read it in less than a day. The writing was beautiful, energetic and enthralling. The writer made me feel and made me think: what do we know about about the world when only seen from the vantage point of our own country? How well do we truly know our family members? Do we ever see a complete picture of our loved ones and does it even matter? This was a book about truth; patriotism; family and friendships that transcend family. I highly recommend it. I just finished reading “What We Inherit.” I read it in less than a day. The writing was beautiful, energetic and enthralling. The writer made me feel and made me think: what do we know about about the world when only seen from the vantage point of our own country? How well do we truly know our family members? Do we ever see a complete picture of our loved ones and does it even matter? This was a book about truth; patriotism; family and friendships that transcend family. I highly recommend it.
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  • Zachary
    January 1, 1970
    An outstanding read!
  • Laura Linart
    January 1, 1970
    Jess Rotondi is a dear friend and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to read this book hot off the presses! What We Inherit follows Jess, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, from Boston to Laos in an effort to find closure for herself and her family. After her mother's death, Jess discovers that years before her birth, her mother and grandparents had engaged in a decades-long search to find a son that went missing in Laos during the Vietnam War. Much of that war was and Jess Rotondi is a dear friend and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to read this book hot off the presses! What We Inherit follows Jess, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, from Boston to Laos in an effort to find closure for herself and her family. After her mother's death, Jess discovers that years before her birth, her mother and grandparents had engaged in a decades-long search to find a son that went missing in Laos during the Vietnam War. Much of that war was and remains murky to many Americans, but the Pearce family finds themselves entangled in its dark heart—coming up against secrets our government doesn't want them, or anyone, to know as they search for their lost son. Jess's background as an editor for Huffington Post is evident as the book trips along in brief chapters that left me wondering what comes next. This is an author who knows how to hold a reader's attention in the internet age. Part memoir, part a richly-researched work of journalism, the flowery language Jess employs to describe her experience as a young woman in a far-off foreign country for the first time juxtaposes nicely with the robust and muscled prose that speeds the plot. This book is a perfect book club pick because it will give readers the opportunity to discuss grief, family secrets, the impact of warfare, the power of faith, and the pleasures of travel. That's a lot of fuel for a fascinating conversation!
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  • Beachpig
    January 1, 1970
    A truly awakening read of a woman learning some of the most important history of her family after they are gone. Rotondi takes the reader along on her exploratory journey through her family's history in an attempt to piece together what happened to her uncle Jake, who went MIA after being shot down over Laos. The care with which she details what she knows and what she learns makes you feel like you are along side each family member. Whether it be parachuting out of a shot down B-17 in World War A truly awakening read of a woman learning some of the most important history of her family after they are gone. Rotondi takes the reader along on her exploratory journey through her family's history in an attempt to piece together what happened to her uncle Jake, who went MIA after being shot down over Laos. The care with which she details what she knows and what she learns makes you feel like you are along side each family member. Whether it be parachuting out of a shot down B-17 in World War II with her Grandpa, to standing up to ambassadors in France with her mom, to being in the base cantina with her uncle Jake before a mission, and finally, being with her as she finds her peace, her writing has you there by each of their sides. Thankful she felt called to go on this exploration and then share it with all of us.
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  • Jackie Hennessey
    January 1, 1970
    Jessica Pearce Rotondis debut is magnificent. I was stunned by the story and the way she tells it and had to remind myself that this is not fiction. Pearce Rotondi does more than share her familys heart-wrenching story of legacy, loss and the uncovering of war-time truths. She weaves a thoughtful memoir into a tapestry of historical accounts and manages to capture your heart from the very first page. What We Inherit is a more than a must-read. Its a masterpiece. Jessica Pearce Rotondi’s debut is magnificent. I was stunned by the story and the way she tells it and had to remind myself that this is not fiction. Pearce Rotondi does more than share her family’s heart-wrenching story of legacy, loss and the uncovering of war-time truths. She weaves a thoughtful memoir into a tapestry of historical accounts and manages to capture your heart from the very first page. What We Inherit is a more than a must-read. It’s a masterpiece.
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