Home is the center of Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s book A Fifty-Year Silence; a memoir about the author’s quest to learn what happened to her grandparents during World War II, why they separated, divorced and refused to speak to each other for over 5 decades. Mouillot grew up with very little factual information about her grandparents. She knew they escaped Nazi-occupied France and lived in refugee camps in Switzerland. Her grandmother was a psychiatrist; her grandfather a UN employee who was a translator at the Nuremberg trials. It was also family lore that one day, Mouillot’s grandmother packed up the children and left her husband without a word. The couple had never spoken to each other since.
Beyond these scant facts, the lives of these two people were a complete mystery to everyone in their family. As the author grew older and attended college, her desire to know what exactly transpired in her grandparents’ lives grew as well. Mouillot’s determination to uncover family secrets became a dominating force in her life.
As a grad student, Mouillot moved to her grandparents abandoned home in the small village of La Roche and attempts to find the missing pieces of the puzzle which is her family history. In between research and caring for her ailing grandfather, Mouillot falls in love, marries, and attempts “imagining” the answers to her questions based on letters from her grandmother and conversations with her emotionally volatile grandfather. The author feels the clock running out in finding answers as her grandparents fade into senility and old age.
A Fifty-Year Silence is a combination of the author’s personal journey and the mystery of what happened to her grandparents’ lives and marriage. The author writes lyrically and compiles a compelling tale. The memoir starts off strong but veers off the rails a bit in the middle as the details become difficult to follow. I found myself frustrated with the progress of the book from time to time and felt the author was taking too long to get to the point. Upon further reflection, I think this was deliberate on the author’s part; a way to bring the reader in to her own frustration as she worked, interviewed her reticent grandparents, and researched for decades to find the answers she was looking for.
The book does not deliver on a resolution in a manner I think most readers would expect but I think this is intentional as well. Mouillot’s grandparents’ tale does not resolve with all loose ends tied up in a bow. Some questions, Mouillot learns, do not have answers.
I received A Fifty-Year Silence in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.