“Picone describes how, decades after her abusive mother cast her out, she attempted to reunite with her estranged family—including her now-Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. Quiet, sensitive Picone and her four siblings spent their New York City childhood being tormented by Eva, their Colombian-born mother.
Yet Picone simultaneously longed for her mother’s love, especially after her father’s death. When a handsome older man asked 17-year-old Picone to marry him following an innocent courtship, Eva coldly cast her daughter out of the family. Picone remained shattered by Eva’s decision for decades, but after her stepfather’s funeral, she strived to reconnect with her family. Unfortunately, her siblings responded with varying degrees of hostility, having long believed Eva’s slanderous (and false) tales about their sister. Picone focused on rebuilding a relationship with her mother, but Alzheimer’s disease was ravaging her, leaving the matriarch increasingly confused and ill while forcing Picone and her combative older sister Julia to share caregiver responsibilities in Eva’s crumbling Queens house. Two additional narratives then unfold: poems describing Picone’s childhood, starting with her earliest memory and circling back to her heart-wrenching abandonment; and the histories of her mother, her Colombian and Italian grandmothers, and Picone’s charming but womanizing father, recounted by Eva in rare moments of lucidity.
In this exquisitely beautiful, haunting debut memoir, Picone weaves a personal story of familial alienation together with sharp, unforgettable portraits of Colombian social hierarchy, the American immigrant experience and post–World War II life. The complex dance of family dynamics rises to life, instantly ensnaring readers. Whether it’s Picone arguing with Julia over their mother’s prognosis or Eva’s painful transition from upper-class Colombian to divorced American immigrant, Picone approaches every character—even herself—with resolute compassion and unflinching honesty. Occasionally, the story steers near self-pity in some distressing scenes, but it never fully falls into that trap. Between the story’s rich layers and Picone’s captivating writing style, this memoir and its nuanced characters will carve a place in readers’ minds.
A fascinating, magnificently epic family saga told by a gifted storyteller. ”
Readers Praise Tesoro:
“A compelling story of remembrance, redemption, and one woman’s power of persistence… Each line captivates the heart. Each chapter stays inside your soul. Picone shows insightful bravery in the dramatic telling of mother daughter dynamics in the face of Alzheimer’s. Her book is an unforgettably breathtaking journey of healing, hope and love.”
−Dorothy Randall Gray, author of Soul Between the Lines
“Tesoro: The Treasured Life of a Discarded Daughter is the exquisitely written story of a woman attempting to disentangle the secrets and lies of a lifetime in the hope of piecing together the fragments of her fractured family. With insight and grace, Picone braids together an absorbing narrative of her search for the truth, at the heart of which is her relationship with an estranged mother disappearing into Alzheimer’s. In a voice that is both personal and resonant, she leads the reader on an intimate journey that spans decades and continents.”
−Janice Van Horne, author of A Complicated Marriage
“Picone’s deeply moving memoir has much more to recommend it than the tale of an extraordinarily hard early life and young adulthood that form the mettle of a woman excluded from her family for thirty years. The writing is superb, with an immediacy that pulls you into an intricate weaving of past and present and moves through the geography of her life; from Union Square to Colombia and Italy, through Queens and Las Vegas. Her descriptions make you feel places. This is more than another memoir of an unhappy childhood, it is a testament to the human heart’s ability to survive, forgive, and transcend adversity.”
−Betsy Feist, Editor
“A gripping story of a woman’s relationship to a controlling and difficult mother who disowns her for thirty years. It is only after the mother slips in to Alzheimer’s disease that her personality softens…I highly recommend this book for those who want to understand the impact of dementia on family dynamics.”
−Dr. Darlynne Devenny, author of Developmental Time and Timing
“An unusual life told in lovely, resonant prose, Picone never makes the easy or expected choice of a word, metaphor or angle on a story, but always the surprisingly beautiful and insightful one. Proust said somewhere that literature lies in the quality of the mirror, not the life it reflects. Picone’s expert, burnished, mirror-like memoir will reward you with the quality of its reflections.”
−Jonathan Wallace, author of Sex, Laws and Cyberspace