Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood – Cheryl Diamond

I won an advance reading copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, which I’m pleased about –because I can highly recommend this book. It feels a little mean to say this is a very entertaining read because Cheryl Diamond’s life was way too chaotic — to such an extent that she ultimately found out she did not legally exist anywhere. She was born to parents on the run, initially from her mother’s father and later because of a crime. Her father is handsome, brilliant and a con man and so he is charming. When she is young, he adheres to moral philosophies and religions and imparts these values to his child and stepchildren. Her mother is beautiful, fragile, has two older children from a prior marriage, and a domineering father who threatens to take them away from her when she becomes “too independent. Cheryl’s mother is obviously brilliant herself, speaks many languages, homeschools her three children on the run and, when they settle places for periods of time, gives them opportunities. Frank swims. Cheryl (born Harbhajan) is a gymnast. Chiara is mostly portrayed through her jealous and mean-spirited side so it’s unclear where she shined. I assume she did some things fine but it seems as though mental health issues may have caused problems for her. Her father’s charm wears thin as Cheryl matures and he is unkind/abusive to his wife and manipulative and abusive with the children. Cheryl’s efforts to make things work despite great dysfunction are typical of children of problematic parents. Her mother’s breakdown makes the child the protector and caretaker: “If I just do this, I’ll please them or they will be okay.” The titles of the sections tell the overarching story and the details are well worth a read. “The Chase” “Amritsar India – Age 4;” and in summary: Australia and South Africa age 5; Canada and Germany ages 6-9; Romania, Cairo, Vienna, and Cyprus – age 10; Tel Aviv age 11; Virginia, USA ages 13-15; NC, USA, age 15; NYC USA, ages 16-22; Florida USA, ages 23-24; Luxembourg intermittently 24-28; Germany intermittently 25-26; Italy intermittently 25-30; with a flashback section about her parents in Luxembourg -1979 and Panama City, Panama – 1985. This is not a sentimental memoir, although some moments bring you to tears. It is not a humor book, although it has some funny moments. There is abuse in it but it is not about the abuse. It’s more a straightforward story that rings true but is so fabulous in nature that the simple truth raises questions. As it must when much of the story was based on life with a con man and a family with serious mental and physical health issues, all the while living on the edge for reasons that were ultimately nonsensical. So, read it. It’s very very well written. A story with many bouncing balls but organized so that we understand the players and what happened to them. And that’s what a good memoir does, right?

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