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Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island

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Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.


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Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

30 review for Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    The book's a genuine tear-jerker. Five little children all abused, a couple of them worse than the others with beatings and imprisonment, starvation and whatever else their mother (their five fathers were not present) could think up when she was present and not off on one of her months-long jaunts. You might think this was in some far-off country, but no it was in NY. They were let down time and again by social services so much so that they felt all the abuse was worth it just to stay together. W The book's a genuine tear-jerker. Five little children all abused, a couple of them worse than the others with beatings and imprisonment, starvation and whatever else their mother (their five fathers were not present) could think up when she was present and not off on one of her months-long jaunts. You might think this was in some far-off country, but no it was in NY. They were let down time and again by social services so much so that they felt all the abuse was worth it just to stay together. With encouragement the author emancipated herself at 14, hoping, with her two older sisters to be able to take her younger brother and sister away from the hell. But she had been lied to by the social worker and for long years she wasn't even allowed to see them. Fortunately, all of them made it out of poverty and have families of their own. The author became the most successful, an attorney and a writer. I hope this book makes a difference. Regina Calcaterra hasn't just written a book she also heads a committee on helping children in care. She's written a good book and I don't think it will be her last. ________ When I wrote this review a couple of days ago I included a personal anecdote, as I do. It inspired my usual troll(s), to send me friend-requests with a lot of hatred. I thought that by only allowing friends to comment it would solve the problem but it didn't as there is no way of blocking friend request messages. So I've cut the review and cut my comments.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sara Strand

    I don't know where to start this review other than to say this isn't a book for the faint of heart. As a parent myself, there were parts of this book that were really hard for me to digest because I don't know how a person could care so little for their child, let alone five children. I really struggled through parts of this book because you want to think that things can't get any worse but you know that they will and they do. And it really just affirms my personal belief that you shouldn't be a I don't know where to start this review other than to say this isn't a book for the faint of heart. As a parent myself, there were parts of this book that were really hard for me to digest because I don't know how a person could care so little for their child, let alone five children. I really struggled through parts of this book because you want to think that things can't get any worse but you know that they will and they do. And it really just affirms my personal belief that you shouldn't be allowed to just have kids. It's been proven that just because you can doesn't mean you should. The story is basically the story of Regina and her siblings who have a mother who isn't just neglectful, but she's also abusive in her moments of actually being there, and these five kids are forced to become mini adults almost immediately. Whether it's trying to make every stop a home, searching for loose change, stealing food and other items to get by, and parenting each other- it's heartbreaking. What makes it worse is that you hope that child protective services would intervene but the kids don't want that because there is real danger in the foster care system. And you periodically hear news stories of foster care gone wrong but Regina's story highlights that it is a much larger problem than we maybe recognize. Some of the passages about the abuse her and her siblings sustained... horrifying. I mean, I can't even imagine the level of rage a person must have to do such things to a child. There are no words and quite frankly, it's a miracle they got out of it alive. I mean, to do the abuse their mother did, what was to stop her from going totally over the edge? The best part about this book is Regina and her overall triumph over her childhood. We all know a few people who have had a horrible childhood but instead of rising above it and recognizing that the past is the past, they dwell. Their entire lives are held back because it's all they can focus on. They lose perspective of what they could still be, the life they could still have, the good that is out there. Regina doesn't let her past get the best of her, instead she pursued her education and became a successful adult, a productive citizen, a beacon to others who are currently in a horrible situation. I absolutely loved this book, though it was difficult to read and I did cry in a few spots. I don't even know Regina, but I am absolutely proud of her and just... there are no words. Check out her Twitter, Facebook, or website to learn more about her and her book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    Reading this book is made tolerable only by the fact that the reader is informed in the Prologue that it has a happy ending—an example of survival beyond expectations from a horrendous childhood family environment. It makes a wonderful story when children from this sort of background are able to thrive as adults. I hate to consider how many examples may exist where children never manage to free themselves from the grip of poverty and abuse. Whenever I hear a story such as this I suspect that ther Reading this book is made tolerable only by the fact that the reader is informed in the Prologue that it has a happy ending—an example of survival beyond expectations from a horrendous childhood family environment. It makes a wonderful story when children from this sort of background are able to thrive as adults. I hate to consider how many examples may exist where children never manage to free themselves from the grip of poverty and abuse. Whenever I hear a story such as this I suspect that there must have been a mentor somewhere that gave the necessary boost to the youth that enabled their escape from the bad environment. There were several sources of help in this story but one in particular was the author's fourth grade teacher. People look but don’t see. Why? People hear but don’t listen. Why? People touch but don’t feel. Why?After I write a poem titled “Why?”, my fourth grade teacher, Miss Muse, suddenly seems to take a special liking to me. She asked me to read it to the class, and then invites the other teachers from our corridor to hear me recite it a second, third and fourth time. She begins to ask me when the other kids are busy, “How are things at home Regina?” The day I tell her I’m moving I’m stunned when her eyes suddenly fill with tears, “Promise me you’ll never forget that you’re special Regina.” “Special?” I usually get dirty, ugly, poor, bastard, gross, nasty, slut, rag doll and whore, but never special. Miss Muse continues telling me to always make sure I have a library card, that reading will help me wherever I end up. “Stay smart, stay sharp, and never ever stop reading,” she whispers into my ear. She hugs me so tight I think I might cry too. The author managed to achieve legal emancipation from her abusive mother at age fourteen. Her desire to also free her younger siblings gave her a goal to work toward. Obviously the author was blessed with significant abilities which helped her take advantage of opportunities. She managed to work her way through college, and later through law school. The following quote from her time in college offers an insight into what kept her going. The older I get the more I'm convinced I've suffered for a reason. It's a reason I don't know yet. But for all of my twenty years it's been circling me, a forecast of something mighty. There's no way a person could be born into disfunction, fighting to survive, and helping her family to do the same, without some purpose to give it all meaning. On the days that feel dark and endless I make myself a simple promise. I'll get out of bed in the morning, then I'll head up the hill to class. If I put one foot in front of the other, day by day, I'll move closer to the light at the end of all the struggle. This book reminds me of The Glass Castle. I can tolerate perhaps one book like this per year. But I'm haunted by the reminder of the existence of such poor family environments for some children. God have mercy. Here's a link to an article about the author Regina Calcaterra from Huffington Post by Maura Sweeney: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maura-s... Here's a link from the Hesston College website regarding Calcaterra's visit there. (I'm an alumnus of Hesston College) http://www.hesston.edu/2015/10/bestse...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Blankenship

    Etched in Sand .... This book put me through the wringer, and I was just the reader. Regina Calcaterra shares with us the brutal, torcherous, and horrendous abuse she and her 4 siblings endured at the hand of the mother Cookie Calcaterra. I am not sure I have felt such intense hatred for a charachter in a book in my entire life. She was a viscous narcissist who in no way should have been allowed to have children, let alone five. What is refreshing about this memoir is Regina Calcaterra's voice. Etched in Sand .... This book put me through the wringer, and I was just the reader. Regina Calcaterra shares with us the brutal, torcherous, and horrendous abuse she and her 4 siblings endured at the hand of the mother Cookie Calcaterra. I am not sure I have felt such intense hatred for a charachter in a book in my entire life. She was a viscous narcissist who in no way should have been allowed to have children, let alone five. What is refreshing about this memoir is Regina Calcaterra's voice. I believe her, I ached for her, I rooted for her, and ultimately I respect her. She never whined and made sure to care for her younger siblings as her older siblings did for her. I thank Regina for highlighting the truth about our Foster system. More so, I respect her for immersing herself in helping others who are in the position she was in. In the epilogue, she eludes to the fact that she is encouraging Rosie to tell her story, and I really hope she does. These 5 siblings show us to be grateful and hold on those who love us. One of the best lessons I have learned is to not waste your time crying over those you think SHOULD love you, and focus on the people who DO love you. I went Google crazy after reading this book and had to research everyone. I will root on these people and keep them in my prayers. This is an important and beautiful book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Etched In Sand arrived yesterday- I was up into the wee hours of the morning to finish this beautifully written, compelling memoir. Regina Calcaterra, who is now a highly successful public advocate lawyer involved in NYS Government, courageously shares the painful, desperate world of her impoverished childhood in suburban Long Island. She is the middle child of 5 siblings of 5 different but absent fathers, who suffer the abuses of their mentally ill, alcoholic and drug addicted single mother. Th Etched In Sand arrived yesterday- I was up into the wee hours of the morning to finish this beautifully written, compelling memoir. Regina Calcaterra, who is now a highly successful public advocate lawyer involved in NYS Government, courageously shares the painful, desperate world of her impoverished childhood in suburban Long Island. She is the middle child of 5 siblings of 5 different but absent fathers, who suffer the abuses of their mentally ill, alcoholic and drug addicted single mother. They are often homeless, hungry, abandoned for many weeks at a time, in and out of school as they move from place to place. Resilient, fiercely protective of each other, and remarkably wise scavengers, they discover means of survival independent of any parental support. Their mother "Cookie" is a violent, abusive obstacle that makes survival much harder as she spends the little money they acquire on her own destructive needs. The book exposes the inadequacies of our social and economic safety net, and highlights the vital role played public schools and libraries as safe havens and support. Regina Calcaterra opens our eyes to what is right in front of us and yet invisible due to indifference and ignorance. You will never again take your toothpaste and brush for granted.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    4.5 stars, but A BIG PROBLEM. Great memoir. Bravely written and a wonderful example of internal and personal perseverance. HOWEVER, it's important to point out, a major disconnect in the author's perceptions. I was taken aback at her contempt of the overworked, underfunded social service system. Her utter stoicism and total unappreciative nature for her foster parents is disheartening. I work for an agency called the Child Placement Review Board (CPRB). Our job is to make recommendations to the c 4.5 stars, but A BIG PROBLEM. Great memoir. Bravely written and a wonderful example of internal and personal perseverance. HOWEVER, it's important to point out, a major disconnect in the author's perceptions. I was taken aback at her contempt of the overworked, underfunded social service system. Her utter stoicism and total unappreciative nature for her foster parents is disheartening. I work for an agency called the Child Placement Review Board (CPRB). Our job is to make recommendations to the courts for "the best interest of the child" in question and to make sure that social services is doing their job. In other words, we oversee social services. If they're not doing their jobs, I know about it! My feelings, as an educator, parent and a long time committee member of the CPRB is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don't! The book has changed my perception of how I, and my colleagues in the court system, do our jobs. Everything we do is completely unappreciated, by biological parents and children alike. She says, at the end of the book, that forever families are needed and she is most certainly correct, but she offers nothing about how the foster families and social workers can do more. She directs her anger at the social workers, her biological parents and sometimes at foster families. She sees them all in cahoots working against the child, and this is simply wrong. Helping one homeless family with an intelligent child is one small act she offers back. But what about becoming an unappreciated forever family or foster family herself; maybe helping to change legislation regarding the number of cases social workers can be dealt? How about, at the very least, becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)? Give back more to this system! We need more people like you to become involved.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Licha

    Call me cold-hearted but I just didn't buy into this story. I am ready to lump this one right alongside A Child Called It. The author never comes across as likable, in fact I quite disliked her. She at times acts arrogant, ungrateful, and entitled. There's a point where Regina finally tells the truth to authorities and she ends up in a foster home where so is so ungrateful to the people who take her in and treat her well that I shut down any empathy I may have had for her. It was a little hard fo Call me cold-hearted but I just didn't buy into this story. I am ready to lump this one right alongside A Child Called It. The author never comes across as likable, in fact I quite disliked her. She at times acts arrogant, ungrateful, and entitled. There's a point where Regina finally tells the truth to authorities and she ends up in a foster home where so is so ungrateful to the people who take her in and treat her well that I shut down any empathy I may have had for her. It was a little hard for me to reconcile the abuse with how mouthy Regina seemed to be towards adults. There was never a clear picture as to the type of abuses going on and the extremity of it so it made Cookie an evil, one-dimensional character. The reader never learns how Cookie became this way. Cookie's parents do not have a relationship with Cookie or her kids, so did they play a part in who Cookie became? It didn't seem so, but then Cookie's brother appears late in the book and seems to be exactly like Cookie. Two people from the same family who are evil and abusive? That made me think that something else was going on in Cookie's family as she was growing up, yet the author never comments on this. It left too many questions unanswered. I will say that the two older sisters bothered me with how they would abandon Regina with the two younger kids. It was odd how one of the sisters stayed for months at a time with a friend. Didn't the friend's family question why this girl was staying with them or try to report the abuse going on? Didn't the family question the welfare of the other four kids? There were so many holes in the story. The story failed to touch me. So yeah, call me cold-hearted.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avi Morris

    Whenever I start to read a memoir about a difficult childhood, I think, well, it probably isn't going to be all that different from the others, and I'm invariably wrong. Each story is horrific and moving with a unique version of living hell. In Etched in Sand, Regina Calcaterra recounts in vivid, simple prose the misery and chaos she and her three sisters and a brother faced living with their brutal mother, and too often without her as for months at a time they would have to fend for themselves Whenever I start to read a memoir about a difficult childhood, I think, well, it probably isn't going to be all that different from the others, and I'm invariably wrong. Each story is horrific and moving with a unique version of living hell. In Etched in Sand, Regina Calcaterra recounts in vivid, simple prose the misery and chaos she and her three sisters and a brother faced living with their brutal mother, and too often without her as for months at a time they would have to fend for themselves as she abandoned them. The older kids in turn had to become surrogate parents for their younger siblings, learning street survival, occasionally going into foster care with varying degrees of comfort. Equally stirring is Calcaterra's description of her attempts to identify and connect with her biological father who never acknowledged her and the story of the way she and her family of survivors dealt with adulthood. Her own successes are remarkable, a real testament to her will to overcome. Hopefully her life and Etched in Sand can let others in her situation understand that they are not alone and that life does not have to be defined by an unspeakable childhood. A must read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Perri

    Calcaterra tells a harrowing story growing up with an alcoholic, abusive and generally all- around despicable excuse of a human being for a mother. She and her four siblings are beaten, starved and do a better job of raising each other than when Cookie(they refuse to call her mom) stays home,. Fortunately for them she regularly abandons them for long periods of time. What I found particularly disheartening (view spoiler)[was how other family members, teachers, neighbors ANYONE never seemed to be Calcaterra tells a harrowing story growing up with an alcoholic, abusive and generally all- around despicable excuse of a human being for a mother. She and her four siblings are beaten, starved and do a better job of raising each other than when Cookie(they refuse to call her mom) stays home,. Fortunately for them she regularly abandons them for long periods of time. What I found particularly disheartening (view spoiler)[was how other family members, teachers, neighbors ANYONE never seemed to be able to help. The Social Workers seemed particularly inept. I understand how many have overwhelming case loads, but so often with this family they did more harm than good. Constantly siding with Cookie even with all the evidence???? (hide spoiler)] the miracle is how anyone could not only survive, but evolve to become a successful adult. Calcaterra's youngest sister who was separated from her siblings wrote her own story and I'd like to read that one as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    d.a.v.i.d

    There are just too many stories available to any reader, in this day of instant access, of atrocities/horrors that have befallen a child, a person, an animal, a country of people. And this is just another one of them. The woman who authors this memoir is a politician and an attorney, both jobs of questionable personal veracity if one were to develop a ‘truth matrix.’ In a similar Didion-esque way, this story leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I do not dabble in widely read books and I thank this book There are just too many stories available to any reader, in this day of instant access, of atrocities/horrors that have befallen a child, a person, an animal, a country of people. And this is just another one of them. The woman who authors this memoir is a politician and an attorney, both jobs of questionable personal veracity if one were to develop a ‘truth matrix.’ In a similar Didion-esque way, this story leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I do not dabble in widely read books and I thank this book for reminding me of the error of my choice here. For the unsophisticated, Enquirer minds, who do not invest in heavier reads, and who reside in a place called ‘Schadenfreude,’ this is more popcorn for them. A movie with plenty of CGI will satiate the reader of this sort as well. Under the false guise of feminism, activism, professionalism, underlies a misandry that I cannot accept. Her world does not admit gentlemen into it, they simply do not matter, although she admittingly is constantly victimized by women. Yes, she uses enough sleight of hand that could shield her against this claim. But an abused person, who has read too many pleadings in a lifetime, can determine this quickly. What about your brother Norman? Maybe a word or two? And Daddy. Now, using your narrative, your mother may have slept with one, five or fifteen different men the nine months prior to when you were born. That is not a father, that is a one-night stand of your mother's choosing. But as a DA in NY who insists on seeing her procreator, you can make that man squirm to heel, courtroom (yours), even though he is old and sick and may not even know he has had a child. Bully. Annoyingly, she perceives herself as a Mother Theresa, no curse words and only interested in helping the helpless. Four hundred pages of self-aggrandizement can only be penned by a practicing JD and/or a politician, who are, mostly, one and the same. The author is kind enough to throw in the first chapter of her upcoming book which appears to be a rehash of the same story, albeit, this time through her sister’s eyes. A sort of cottage industry, 'monetizing abuse.' Feh. Waning tolerance is the result of inexact and specious words. Also, rocky narrative and omissions by intent are illegal in the land of autobiographical prose, more so when serious social defects are at issue. 'A million little pieces.' It is unlawful to waste the serious reader's time; a silent accord, no affiant or affidavit required. And please, stop the bullying, Ms. Calcaterra, Esq. This constant commination by your legal community is not only inappropriate but it offers the same strong-armed effect that seems de rigueur throughout this country nowadays by your underground profession, and is resented by your typical American. I have had to eliminate or report too many comments from your buddies. And you are all from the same area. I will reprint this review everytime I am blindsided by one of your professional famiglia. Capiche? Your audacity never ceases to amaze. You are a bully. Reading in this country is not a contact sport.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra is the true story of the abuse and neglect the author and her siblings suffered through - at the hands of their mother and in a system that wasn't working as it should. Regina notes that her childhood made her very aware of how people in power can impact the lives of others and this knowledge helped lead her to her present day career in public service. Regina has two older sist Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra is the true story of the abuse and neglect the author and her siblings suffered through - at the hands of their mother and in a system that wasn't working as it should. Regina notes that her childhood made her very aware of how people in power can impact the lives of others and this knowledge helped lead her to her present day career in public service. Regina has two older sister, Cherie and Camille, and a younger brother and sister, Norman and Rosie. Regina makes it clear that their mother, Cookie, was a drunk who was always avoiding the cops. She abused and neglected her children, abandoning them for weeks at a time. She stole, wrote bad checks, and always had a series of warrants out for her arrest. While Cookie's "aim is to put in as little effort as possible to get what she can from whom she can, including the system (pg.31)" Regina (and her older sisters) wanted to keep themselves out of the system entirely. These children were in an impossible situation. With their mother there was rampant abuse and neglect for certain, but in the system (foster care) lurked other very real potential dangers. As I was reading this powerful memoir, I literally had to set the book aside several times. It was so frustrating to see a system that wasn't working or groups that were unable to work together or across state lines. It was encouraging and inspirational to see how Regina overcame the odds. As an emancipated teen in the system it certainly appeared that she would be lucky to escape from her childhood without any long term trauma. To see how hard and tirelessly Regina worked to overcome her background is a testimony to her determination. The determination she had to try and keep her siblings together or in contact with each other was touching. At the same time, Regina is trying to confirm that her father really is the man Cookie has always said is her father. He won't admit it is true but the evidence seems to confirm Cookie is telling the truth. It was good to see a conclusion to this question, although the fact that she had to ask it is heart-breaking. In Etched in Sand Regina writes about her childhood in the present tense with a simple straightforward honesty which makes the narrative feel more raw and tragic, if that is even possible. We know she survived this horrific childhood to become the successful adult she is today, but while reading about some of the abuse... oh.my.goodness. It's probably for the best that it is written in this manner, a recounting of the facts as she experienced them when a child. This is a well-written personal account of a woman who overcame a deplorable childhood. It might be difficult for some people to read about the abuse, but for those who can, the triumphant conclusion of Regina's story today will outshine the appalling facts of her childhood. Very Highly Recommended Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    This book, written by Regina Calceterra is about the lives of her three sisters and brother growing up with an alcoholic and an extremely emotionally, mentally and physically abusive mother. I don't even know where to start with this. Sometimes homeless, sometimes living in the worst of living conditions these children managed to survive. Sometimes left on their own, with no food, no heat in the winter, in and out of foster care (sometimes good but mostly bad) how they ever survived is beyond me This book, written by Regina Calceterra is about the lives of her three sisters and brother growing up with an alcoholic and an extremely emotionally, mentally and physically abusive mother. I don't even know where to start with this. Sometimes homeless, sometimes living in the worst of living conditions these children managed to survive. Sometimes left on their own, with no food, no heat in the winter, in and out of foster care (sometimes good but mostly bad) how they ever survived is beyond me. I was going to give this book four stars but I know it will stay with me for a long time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jen from Quebec :0)

    Unbelievable. In a reading challenge I am doing for this site, I needed to read a book that featured SAND on the cover- I know, right? So, I thought that this one looked promising and the Kindle price was right. I am always interested in stories about the foster care system in America, as I see so many ways it can be improved upon- and I live in Canada! For this reason, I have always read the books of Cathy Glass, who writes about her experiences as a foster mom, and thought reading a book about Unbelievable. In a reading challenge I am doing for this site, I needed to read a book that featured SAND on the cover- I know, right? So, I thought that this one looked promising and the Kindle price was right. I am always interested in stories about the foster care system in America, as I see so many ways it can be improved upon- and I live in Canada! For this reason, I have always read the books of Cathy Glass, who writes about her experiences as a foster mom, and thought reading a book about this life from the CHILD'S POV, especially one not affiliated with Glass and her stories, and especially with 5 siblings in the mix would be a good fit for me; and thus, I could meet my challenge requirement. What I did not expect was a harrowing tale of a mother who neglected her kids for weeks at a time, was a hardcore alcoholic that inflicted horrible abuses upon her kids, and the amazing writing talent of Regina Calcaterra, which kept me up all night, unable to sleep until this book was finished. Perhaps to SPITE her upbringing, Calcaterra became a lawyer, has worked for the Senate and works for programs that help out foster kids that 'age out' of the system. I learned a LOT about 'the system' from this book, as well as reading a page-turning, compelling story of the bonds between siblings. Great stuff, and a wonderful find! I love when that happens, don't you? --Jen from Quebec :0)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Ok, if I see the phrase "mia bambina amore" one more time I might throw up. I did not like this book at all. I am actually really surprised at all of the 4 and 5 star ratings. Why?? There are WAY better stories out there that consist of memoirs of abused children. I think the problem with this book is that it did a lot of telling, not showing. She does not evoke the reader's emotion in any of her descriptions of anything. I didn't cry or even come close not one time and that is easy to do. Let me Ok, if I see the phrase "mia bambina amore" one more time I might throw up. I did not like this book at all. I am actually really surprised at all of the 4 and 5 star ratings. Why?? There are WAY better stories out there that consist of memoirs of abused children. I think the problem with this book is that it did a lot of telling, not showing. She does not evoke the reader's emotion in any of her descriptions of anything. I didn't cry or even come close not one time and that is easy to do. Let me give you an example. This is her description of the 9/11 attack: "The morning of Sept 11, 2001, I'm serving as an election monitor in Queens for my old boss, who's campaigning for mayor, when the poll workers alert me that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, a second tower is hit." Mundane, dull, emotionless. But...she's a lawyer. Not sure a lawyer can be a writer too. Also confused about the omission of Norman from basically the entire second half of the book. It's like she forgot she had a brother too, not just a younger sister. So yeah, nothing great. Not THAT "unspeakable" if you ask me. Also didn't like that it was written basically as a YA novel and from the point of view of a tween for a large portion of it. There are better books, believe me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bobbieshiann

    Heartbreak, abuse, and a broken system are what you find in this book. Though it is Regina who tells her story, she has 4 other siblings who share a horrible life as well. A mother's favoritism and selfishness leave her children mentally and physically hurt. A "mother" who is a drunk and uses her body to get what she wants, takes her children on a journey that will change them forever. Yes, in the end, they come back to each other and find a way for all 5 siblings to be a family again, but the p Heartbreak, abuse, and a broken system are what you find in this book. Though it is Regina who tells her story, she has 4 other siblings who share a horrible life as well. A mother's favoritism and selfishness leave her children mentally and physically hurt. A "mother" who is a drunk and uses her body to get what she wants, takes her children on a journey that will change them forever. Yes, in the end, they come back to each other and find a way for all 5 siblings to be a family again, but the price they pay to get there is dreadful. The system has failed these children several times and does not have to answer to the harm they caused. To barley help foster kids, and when they do, cut them off at 18 or 21 just to be alone again is saddening. This families story is a lot to read but it does make you reflect on so much. Who we are as people and how selfish we can be. How we lack to contribute or do the bare minimum to help ourselves feel better. "We're poor. We have no connections and even fewer resources, and we've learned to not trust anyone who says You can trust me. We've had to put our faith in the people who treat us coldly, who attempt to prey on our vulnerabilities and take advantage of us; but in the end, no one can really save us from our own hard reality. Every single one of us has had to climb out of our childhood and help ourselves". - Regina Calcaterra

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erica Clou

    The beginning of this was particularly good and I think it could have been a better memoir with tighter editing. Part of the issue is the main story of her abuse and overcoming the abuse to build a good life is over way before the memoir is over. It could have ended with her first job, quickly summarized her adult life- possibly with a focus on her role as a leader in Long Island. I was particularly confused about the lengthy section about her paternity test suit, even though as an attorney myse The beginning of this was particularly good and I think it could have been a better memoir with tighter editing. Part of the issue is the main story of her abuse and overcoming the abuse to build a good life is over way before the memoir is over. It could have ended with her first job, quickly summarized her adult life- possibly with a focus on her role as a leader in Long Island. I was particularly confused about the lengthy section about her paternity test suit, even though as an attorney myself I understood what she explained about the case itself. I understand why the lawsuit may be important to her, but that's different than what's likely to be important to a reader. In any case, I think she sounds like a remarkable person who views her past in a self-aware and rational manner.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jami

    After reading works such as The Glass Castle and Three Little Words, this just didn't own up to similar memoirs. Although I strongly admire the author and all she had to endure, I had a difficult time connecting with her voice through out the book. After reading works such as The Glass Castle and Three Little Words, this just didn't own up to similar memoirs. Although I strongly admire the author and all she had to endure, I had a difficult time connecting with her voice through out the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda Toft

    It is absolutely amazing how the author of this book and her siblings rose above their tragic childhood! They lived their lives with a damaged mother who's contribution was to give birth to them then often leave them to fend for themselves, a flawed system that continued to fail these children and society's ability not to see what was happening to them! They experienced so much damage, mentally and physically from those closest to them, yet they have grown up to be so much more than their backgr It is absolutely amazing how the author of this book and her siblings rose above their tragic childhood! They lived their lives with a damaged mother who's contribution was to give birth to them then often leave them to fend for themselves, a flawed system that continued to fail these children and society's ability not to see what was happening to them! They experienced so much damage, mentally and physically from those closest to them, yet they have grown up to be so much more than their background! I am sure each one of them must still carry many of the scars from their nightmarish past, yet they have decided to allow life not to be based on the nightmares of their past, but the opportunity and right to the joys of the future! Hat's off all of them. This had to have been a very difficult book for the author to write. Revisiting a horrid past can be almost as damaging as living it! I hope her telling sheds more light on the needs of so many children! Many live right under our noses who are experiencing verbal, mental and physical abuse. As these children did, they are afraid to tell for fear of being separated from their siblings, punished or other reasons so they carry the abuse in silence. Thank you Regina for giving a voice to, not only your siblings and yourself, but to thousands of children in need of love, proper care and the rights to the basic needs of life!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Though grim, this story plays as a reminder that even one kind adult in a child’s life can impact them in an enormous way. Based on her life as a child, Regina and her siblings struggle to survive homelessness and the brutality of a series of unfortunate foster homes. With an unstable mother, this story accounts for her upbringing in Lower Manhattan. Regina perseveres despite the odds yet encounters the unhappiest of situations along the way: neglect, violence, abuse, and near starvation. “It Though grim, this story plays as a reminder that even one kind adult in a child’s life can impact them in an enormous way. Based on her life as a child, Regina and her siblings struggle to survive homelessness and the brutality of a series of unfortunate foster homes. With an unstable mother, this story accounts for her upbringing in Lower Manhattan. Regina perseveres despite the odds yet encounters the unhappiest of situations along the way: neglect, violence, abuse, and near starvation. “It seems like every few months we get a new social worker, so it’s not surprising when a new lady shows up to get Norm and me.” This is a quick read and moving memoir. Note that it does include some disturbing scenes. Still such a tear-jerker though! I loved this book and highly recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lectus

    Who is Regina Calcaterra? Well, currently, she is the Chief Deputy Executive of Suffolk County. Sounds fancy? What is interesting is Regina’s life. Raised by an abusive mother, Regina and her four siblings endured a tragic childhood facing hunger, physical, psychological abuse, and their share of foster care. In Etched in Sand, Regina proudly recounts the early years of her life until she became a lawyer and a New York State Official. The book is an inspiration for those living in poverty and whoev Who is Regina Calcaterra? Well, currently, she is the Chief Deputy Executive of Suffolk County. Sounds fancy? What is interesting is Regina’s life. Raised by an abusive mother, Regina and her four siblings endured a tragic childhood facing hunger, physical, psychological abuse, and their share of foster care. In Etched in Sand, Regina proudly recounts the early years of her life until she became a lawyer and a New York State Official. The book is an inspiration for those living in poverty and whoever thinks that to succeed in life one must be born in the right family.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Triola

    What an inspiring bring things into perspective book! First of all, Regina, thank you for rising above your horrible upbringing and being strong enough in the end to tell your story. Growing up in NJ, so close to NY, I never heard of this horrible woman who not only had 5 children but then refused to be a mother to them. The conditions these children grew up in are incredibly horrific. I wish this mother was still alive to read her "daughters" story and to see what a monster she was. This book is What an inspiring bring things into perspective book! First of all, Regina, thank you for rising above your horrible upbringing and being strong enough in the end to tell your story. Growing up in NJ, so close to NY, I never heard of this horrible woman who not only had 5 children but then refused to be a mother to them. The conditions these children grew up in are incredibly horrific. I wish this mother was still alive to read her "daughters" story and to see what a monster she was. This book is definitely one of the best I have read!

  22. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    Read it in one sitting! A remarkable story of these five children who managed to grow into strong adults by creating a family unit within themselves and with their determination to protect it from their abusive mother or separation from social services. Harrowing, heartbreaking, inspiring. Wonderful. Read it!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    $1.99 on amazon kindle and ibooks

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Minde

    Regina Calcaterra's powerful memoir, Etched In Sand, begins with her flying over the ravaged neighborhoods of Long Island following the hurricane, Super Storm Sandy. As chief deputy executive of Suffolk County, it is Regina Calcaterra's job to regulate, not just post-disaster funding, but any government resources her county receives. Calcaterra's career in public service is not accidental; growing up with four siblings and an abusive, neglectful, alcoholic mother and an ineffective foster child Regina Calcaterra's powerful memoir, Etched In Sand, begins with her flying over the ravaged neighborhoods of Long Island following the hurricane, Super Storm Sandy. As chief deputy executive of Suffolk County, it is Regina Calcaterra's job to regulate, not just post-disaster funding, but any government resources her county receives. Calcaterra's career in public service is not accidental; growing up with four siblings and an abusive, neglectful, alcoholic mother and an ineffective foster child system, Regina was determined to make a difference. Despite the extreme poverty and constant abuse from her mother, a fragmented education and unpredictable housing, Regina was able to help raise herself, and her siblings, to become stable adults and parents. The story as to how Regina grew up to be the person she is today is candidly written and absolutely heartbreaking. Regina and her older sister, Camille, were the true parents of the five children. Every time their mother, whom they all called Cookie, found subsidized housing in either a cockroach-infested house or even an apartment above a glue factory, they knew it was only a matter of time until the landlord would kick them out for not paying rent. Traveling from house to house using garbage bags to carry their clothing, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to finger brush their teeth, a half bar of soap to wash themselves and their dishes, the girls were always on the alert to sneak out in the middle of the night when threatened with eviction. As most of their welfare checks went towards paying for Cookie's beer and cigarettes, the children learned how to shoplift food and live off of the kindness of strangers. And, sadly enough, whenever Cookie would eventually abandon them, sometimes for weeks at a time, the children found these days to be the most stable and enjoyable. Cookie was a pill-popping, promiscuous alcoholic with five children from five different men. Her only son, Norman, was rarely the subject of her abusive tirades that included calling her four daughters "whores' and "sluts". Cookie would beat the girls, but for reasons then unknown to Regina, she received the more brutal and most constant abuse. Cookie even tied the four year-old Regina to a radiator for days. These parts of the book are disturbing and heartbreaking and make the reader wonder how Regina grew up to be the successful woman we are introduced to in the beginning of the book. Knowing that if child protective services became aware of the neglect and abuse, and consequently separated into different foster homes, the children learned how to hide the bruises and effectively lie to teachers or social workers about their obviously absent mother. The foster system thirty years ago was inefficiently managed and the social workers were unbelievably incompetent. There were times Regina endured beatings, even sexual abuse, from some of the foster families. And when the children are finally taken away from Cookie and separated into different homes, Regina is able to become an emancipated minor at age fourteen. But then she learns the heartbreaking truth she no longer has any say as to what happens with her younger brother and sister. As I was reading this book, I was frequently reminded of Jeannette Wall's memoir, The Glass Castle. Though Walls did not suffer any mental or physical abuse from her parents, they did share the same nomadic, unstable childhood of extreme poverty and hunger. The scene in Walls' book when, driven by hunger, she eats ate a cheese sandwich from the school garbage can is similar to Regina Calcaterra's dumpster diving and shoplifting in desperation to feed her four siblings. Throughout Etched In Sand, the readers are able to see how Regina was able to keep herself and her siblings educated, sane, and loving. Fiercely determined to prevent other children from suffering the same experiences, Regina stays in school and becomes the first in her family to graduate from college. Her career in public service is driven by her experiences and dedication to make a difference. Etched in Sand is written from the heart. It is disturbing, but uplifting, and it is a story about survivors of abuse, neglect, hunger, ineffective social work programs and the foster system in America. How these five children survived and eventually thrived is a story that must be told.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Allen

    This title was masterfully authored by Regina Calcaterra, who is a prominent lawyer, New York State government official, and activist for children's rights. First and foremost, this is a true-life memoir of hope and inspiration. This book brings to light the heart-wrenching account of Calcaterra's indigent childhood, the complete failure of her mother to care for her and her siblings, but also the failure of the foster care and social services system that is called upon to manage such children. This title was masterfully authored by Regina Calcaterra, who is a prominent lawyer, New York State government official, and activist for children's rights. First and foremost, this is a true-life memoir of hope and inspiration. This book brings to light the heart-wrenching account of Calcaterra's indigent childhood, the complete failure of her mother to care for her and her siblings, but also the failure of the foster care and social services system that is called upon to manage such children. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with challenges of strife and intermittent homelessness in the back alleys of Manhattan and Long Island. I was appalled, outraged, and amazed while reading this book, seeing glimpses into the shadows of an underworld that I have fortunately never witnessed myself. How the five Calcaterra children survived the abuse and utter neglect but ultimately evolved into well-rounded adults is difficult to comprehend. Not only did their parents (and some foster parents) fail them, but also the governmental systems designed to prevent such circumstances. They endured unimaginable and brutally compromising situations to survive life and to remain above water, let alone just locating enough food with which to sustain themselves on a daily basis. They were constantly uprooted and on the move, living in cars, abandoned buildings, or even sometimes completely homeless, while experiencing a life far beyond what any normal child should deserve--rudimentary needs such as parental organization, a regular school schedule to attend, basic transportation, prepared meals, or any similarity of a stable home life with water, gas and electrical utility services. Etched in Sand chronicles Calcaterra's reaching above her past while, as a true leader, fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all. This is a well-written true-life story of a ragged poor girl ultimately evolving into an educated, driven, and accomplished attorney in New York City. Wonderfully written, while heartbreakingly sincere, this non-fiction is an extraordinary testament that irrespective of social status, success is still attainable for anyone with the grit and determination to succeed. This title is recommended for anyone that requires a reality check to understand what is truly important in life, or for anyone who needs inspiration enough to understand what can be done to reach the stars. The review by Courtney Allen, author of Down from the Mountain and Orange Moon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    From The Book Wheel: I don’t even know where to start. This book is just that powerful. I’ve been putting off writing this review because I was trying to figure out how to put into words the impact it had on me and I’ve finally realized that I’m speechless. Absolutely speechless. And we all know that never happens. I read this book from cover to cover (until 4 am) and cried for the Calcaterra kids on numerous occasions. I’m getting my Master’s in Public Policy, so this book impacted me on two leve From The Book Wheel: I don’t even know where to start. This book is just that powerful. I’ve been putting off writing this review because I was trying to figure out how to put into words the impact it had on me and I’ve finally realized that I’m speechless. Absolutely speechless. And we all know that never happens. I read this book from cover to cover (until 4 am) and cried for the Calcaterra kids on numerous occasions. I’m getting my Master’s in Public Policy, so this book impacted me on two levels. The first was the heartbreaking story of the Calcaterra siblings, whose childhoods are demonstrative of what is wrong with our child welfare system. There were times that I wanted to scream because I was so frustrated with the protocols. The second impact has to do with Regina Calcaterra –  public policy expert. She is an incredible woman who has made her way in a man’s world, not to mention everything she had to overcome to get there. She had to conquer both the gender gap and her past. She successfully completed college and her law degree, which is no easy feat for a foster child who’s told to marry well. I can safely say that she has secured her spot on my most-admired women list (next to Hillary Clinton). I can only hope that I can enact the kind of positive change that she has. But back to the book. Etched in Sand is the true story of Regina Calcaterra and her four siblings who were forced to endure a horrific and abusive childhood. Separated and bounced around from foster home to foster home, the close-knit siblings suffered the abuse of not only their mother (when she didn’t disappear for weeks on end), but also their foster parents. When they were placed back with with their mother, Regina had to steal food to provide for her younger siblings. It’s all heart-wrenching, but perhaps the most tragic part about their story is that they were failed by social services, whose bureaucratic red tape left them fighting for themselves. For the full review, click here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    "Etched in Sand" blew me away! This is one of those books where the subject matter is incredibly intense but you will be absolutely drawn to this story. Regina and her siblings lived through such horrible things at the hands of their mother and they come out on the other side and are able to overcome their situation. It was really amazing to read this book where there are so many bad things going on and to see that good things can still come out of the bad. Ms. Calcaterra tells her story in an un "Etched in Sand" blew me away! This is one of those books where the subject matter is incredibly intense but you will be absolutely drawn to this story. Regina and her siblings lived through such horrible things at the hands of their mother and they come out on the other side and are able to overcome their situation. It was really amazing to read this book where there are so many bad things going on and to see that good things can still come out of the bad. Ms. Calcaterra tells her story in an unflinching voice. We get to see everything that her mother did to her and her siblings. We get to know her innermost feelings. Her detail is so telling that we can feel what she went through. I got so involved in the story of these siblings that I couldn't stop reading even though there are some really horrific things that go on in this book. I had to see what happened and I wanted to make sure that everything would be okay for these siblings. Calcaterra truly knows how to captivate an audience. This book is for those that don't mind tough subjects but love stories of love between siblings, overcoming obstacles, and seeing the triumph of the human spirit. It is unbelievable that a mother could do these things to her children as described in the book. I'm hopeful that other people who are going through difficult abuse situations will read this book and see that even when life deals you some pretty harsh cards, it's still possible to make things better and create a really amazing life like Ms. Calcaterra did.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leeann

    I have vacillated between 2.5 and 3 stars for this book. While Regina's childhood was horrifying, somehow I felt detached while reading the book. Also, I would get very confused in parts.. what happened to Norman for years? Why exactly did Rosie cut contact for awhile? Why had one of the older sisters lost custody of her own child? I don't know why this book didn't really resonate strongly with me. I will say that I am very glad that Regina brings up the issue of older foster children (teens/lat I have vacillated between 2.5 and 3 stars for this book. While Regina's childhood was horrifying, somehow I felt detached while reading the book. Also, I would get very confused in parts.. what happened to Norman for years? Why exactly did Rosie cut contact for awhile? Why had one of the older sisters lost custody of her own child? I don't know why this book didn't really resonate strongly with me. I will say that I am very glad that Regina brings up the issue of older foster children (teens/late teens) and how they are supposed to survive once they are "dumped" by the system. That is an area that needs to be closely examined. In our area, there has been a group formed to help kids with this very issue.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary Blye Kramer

    I’m so sorry for this young woman’s pain but a memoir like this needs something to distinguish it since otherwise it’s just another horrific growing up tale. Some comic relief, beautiful prose, a handle on your bitterness... anything. But it had none of these and so I read a little, then skimmed, then put it in a pile of stuff to give away. Why didn’t an editor or agent with with this woman to help shape the book?

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Crow

    I loved this book. Having had a very difficult childhood, as outlined in my memoir, The Pale-Faced Lie, I felt for Regina and her siblings with an empathy that only a wounded child could know. This is a sad book with a happy ending and a great read.

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