Secret Girl

A Memoir


For decades, a well-to-do Baltimore family guarded a secret too painful to reveal, much less speak of among themselves. For one daughter, that secret would haunt her for years but ultimately compel her to take surprising risks and reap unbelievable rewards--the story of which forms the stunning narrative of this remarkable memoir.

When Molly Bruce Jacobs, the family's eldest daughter, finds herself newly sober at the age of thirty-eight, she finally seeks out and comes face-to-face with this secret: Anne, a younger sister who was diagnosed at birth with hydrocephalus ("water on the brain") and mental retardation, then institutionalized. Anne has never been home to visit, and Jacobs has never seen her. Full of trepidation, Jacobs goes to meet her sister for the first time. As the book unfilds and the sisters grow close, Jacobs learns of the decades of life not shared, and gains surprising insights about herself, including why she drank for most of her adult life. In addition, she gradually comes to understand that her parents' reasons for placing Anne in an institution were far more complex than she'd ever imagined.

  • St. Martin's Press; April 2007
  • ISBN: 9781429905800
  • Edition: 1
  • Read online, or download in secure EPUB format
  • Title: Secret Girl
  • Author: Molly Bruce Jacobs
  • Imprint: St. Martin's Press

In The Press

“An important story, heartbreakingly vivid, and beautifully told.” —Jane Bernstein, author of Bereft: A Sister's Story

“Painful secrets are brought to light in this rueful, honest account.” —Publishers Weekly

Secret Girl is an unwaveringly courageous, wisely seen, and gorgeously written book about family secrets, indelible loss, and the healing power of reconciliation that stands equal to groundbreaking memoirs like Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, and Lucy Grealey's Autobiography of a Face.” —Julie Checkoway, author of the forthcoming book and director of the forthcoming documentary Waiting for Hockney

“Molly Bruce Jacobs takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the range of emotions a family experiences when the parents choose to institutionalize their daughter.” —Steve Morgan, executive director, the Arc of Baltimore

Secret Girl is a compelling evocation of the dynamics of one family around an invisible sister tucked away into an institution, and the long journey of the author to claim her sister, and claim herself. This is a memorable book...The author's accurate eye and deep desire for truth make this book a necessary one to enter, a great visit to the birth of love between sisters, and to its persistence.” —Anya Achtenberg, Zoetrope Award-winning author and poet

“The author writes effortless prose....One of the things that amazed me was the beauty of many of the images. And those images come with a precise dissection of the characters' lives…This is wonderful work.” —Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World, on Small Burials

About The Author

Molly Bruce Jacobs's short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals, and her articles and essays have appeared in AARP The Magazine, The Baltimore Sun, Redbook, and various other publications. Berfore turning to writing full-time, Jacobs practiced law in Baltimore, Maryland. She now divides her time between western Massachusetts and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.