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Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America

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Four young Southern sisters try to live life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Two sisters remained in foster care during childhood, but all four women have subsequently reunited and are close despite recurring sibling rivalries. Through all their adversities th Four young Southern sisters try to live life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Two sisters remained in foster care during childhood, but all four women have subsequently reunited and are close despite recurring sibling rivalries. Through all their adversities the four sisters show an amazing inner strength and resiliency, and it is obvious they care about improving their lives. Conversations from 1994-2002 between the sisters and their stepmother reveal surprising events in real-time; their lively and impassioned personal conversations read like a novel but are absolutely true. Their stories include heart-rending acounts of childhood physical and sexual abuse and spousal abuse in marriage, unwarranted loss of children, living on the minimum wage, and repeated ER visits resulting in pain-medication addictions. Boxes of statistics inserted between the conversations add educational material to support the many social issues in the book. These women are survivors, but it is easy to see that traumatic childhoods left them with drug and alcohol addictions to stop the pain and memories. One has served time in Chowchilla Women's Prison in California after life on the streets of San Francisco and LA. This book speaks volumes to the unfairness of our legal system and its failure to rehabilitate offenders. At the heart of this memoir is a touching love story of five women, four sisters and their stepmother, who support each other with uncompromising loyalty and devotion.


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Four young Southern sisters try to live life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Two sisters remained in foster care during childhood, but all four women have subsequently reunited and are close despite recurring sibling rivalries. Through all their adversities th Four young Southern sisters try to live life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Two sisters remained in foster care during childhood, but all four women have subsequently reunited and are close despite recurring sibling rivalries. Through all their adversities the four sisters show an amazing inner strength and resiliency, and it is obvious they care about improving their lives. Conversations from 1994-2002 between the sisters and their stepmother reveal surprising events in real-time; their lively and impassioned personal conversations read like a novel but are absolutely true. Their stories include heart-rending acounts of childhood physical and sexual abuse and spousal abuse in marriage, unwarranted loss of children, living on the minimum wage, and repeated ER visits resulting in pain-medication addictions. Boxes of statistics inserted between the conversations add educational material to support the many social issues in the book. These women are survivors, but it is easy to see that traumatic childhoods left them with drug and alcohol addictions to stop the pain and memories. One has served time in Chowchilla Women's Prison in California after life on the streets of San Francisco and LA. This book speaks volumes to the unfairness of our legal system and its failure to rehabilitate offenders. At the heart of this memoir is a touching love story of five women, four sisters and their stepmother, who support each other with uncompromising loyalty and devotion.

51 review for Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Robertson

    I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads drawing. It was very different from anything I have read before. Kay, the author chronicles telephone conversations with her young adult stepdaughters who deal with issues such as domestic abuse, being in and out of the jail system and drug abuse. Kay is educated and a positive influence in each of the young woman's lives. It also includes a lot of interesting tidbits and statistics about our legal system, which sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. It I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads drawing. It was very different from anything I have read before. Kay, the author chronicles telephone conversations with her young adult stepdaughters who deal with issues such as domestic abuse, being in and out of the jail system and drug abuse. Kay is educated and a positive influence in each of the young woman's lives. It also includes a lot of interesting tidbits and statistics about our legal system, which sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. It was hard to put this book down, but sometimes I couldn't pick it up for a week at a time because of my schedule at work. When I had a lull in reading, I would sometimes find it hard to get back on track of which daughter was which because they had similar problems. There are pictures of everyone on a website which is nice, but I think if the pictures were in the book it would have been even better. Overall a very interesting book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was a hard read, mostly because what is presented is the transcripts of personal telephone calls between Kay Corbett and her step-daughters. I might not have read this if it hadn't been selected for AAUW's Adelante reading list for the 2014-2015 year. What it does put forth is a chronicle of the lives of four women, and their struggles with poverty, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and the failure of the Alabama legal system. Clearly we are funding a prison system that is operating as a This book was a hard read, mostly because what is presented is the transcripts of personal telephone calls between Kay Corbett and her step-daughters. I might not have read this if it hadn't been selected for AAUW's Adelante reading list for the 2014-2015 year. What it does put forth is a chronicle of the lives of four women, and their struggles with poverty, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and the failure of the Alabama legal system. Clearly we are funding a prison system that is operating as a debtor's prison. Fines are levied, remediating courses (with fees) assigned to people who have little hope of being able to pay. Although none of us in our reading group had ever met any of these women, we know many others who are in the same situation. Kay Corbett puts a face on dysfunctional families, sexual and substance abuse, poverty, and unrealistic expectations of the courts.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan Gillam

    I won this book from Goodreads. I know people like this. I just feel so sorry for the girls who were abused as children, and then it carried over to adulthood with the men they picked. It's like they are the walking wounded. At least they had their step mom, who was more than a mother then their biological mother. I wished that the girls could overcome their addiction, then may be the story would have a happier outcome. I won this book from Goodreads. I know people like this. I just feel so sorry for the girls who were abused as children, and then it carried over to adulthood with the men they picked. It's like they are the walking wounded. At least they had their step mom, who was more than a mother then their biological mother. I wished that the girls could overcome their addiction, then may be the story would have a happier outcome.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stormy

    AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation for Dec. 2014 by Kay Corbett, AAUW Fairfax City (VA) Branch: Calla Lilies recounts the story of four young Southern sisters living life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Through all their adversities the four sisters show an amazing inner strength and resiliency. Conversations from 1994–2002 between the sisters and their stepmother reveal surprising ev AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation for Dec. 2014 by Kay Corbett, AAUW Fairfax City (VA) Branch: Calla Lilies recounts the story of four young Southern sisters living life with courage and determination despite an alcoholic birth mother who deserted them and a maternal grandmother who left them at the Salvation Army. Through all their adversities the four sisters show an amazing inner strength and resiliency. Conversations from 1994–2002 between the sisters and their stepmother reveal surprising events in real-time; their lively and impassioned personal conversations read like a novel but are absolutely true. This book also addresses the unfairness of our legal system and its failure to rehabilitate offenders with the story of one sister who has served time in Chowchilla Women’s Prison in California after life on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles. At the heart of this memoir is a touching love story of five women, four sisters, and their stepmother, who support each other with uncompromising loyalty and devotion. Available in print and Kindle formats

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dejaan Lafleur

    It was so refreshing to read this survival story. This is a story about four sisters and their life journey through childhood, sexual & physical abuse, sibling rivalry, spousal abuse, homelessness, loss of children, incarceration, living on the minimum wage, repeated ER visits and pain-medication addictions. The sisters birth mother was an alcoholic, so they were left with their maternal grandmother who eventually left them at the salvation army. These ladies exhibit such amazing inner strength and It was so refreshing to read this survival story. This is a story about four sisters and their life journey through childhood, sexual & physical abuse, sibling rivalry, spousal abuse, homelessness, loss of children, incarceration, living on the minimum wage, repeated ER visits and pain-medication addictions. The sisters birth mother was an alcoholic, so they were left with their maternal grandmother who eventually left them at the salvation army. These ladies exhibit such amazing inner strength and resiliency. In reading the story you get so attached to the characters and you really want to find out how their life plays out, you honestly want each sister to succeed with their plight of life. This is a touching love story of five women you will want to read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jay Douglass

    While the book deals with a difficult but important topic -child abuse, poverty and foster care- despite the premise the book is not all a downer. At least the four siblings were kept together so they had each other to lean on. When these four sisters reached adulthood, there trauma was far from over. It's never over really, just lessened a bit by the healer of time. As I mentioned there are uplifting parts of Calla Lilies as well. The human qualities of perseverance, optimism and resiliency come t While the book deals with a difficult but important topic -child abuse, poverty and foster care- despite the premise the book is not all a downer. At least the four siblings were kept together so they had each other to lean on. When these four sisters reached adulthood, there trauma was far from over. It's never over really, just lessened a bit by the healer of time. As I mentioned there are uplifting parts of Calla Lilies as well. The human qualities of perseverance, optimism and resiliency come through. The author kept impeccable transcripts of her telephone conversations with these women making their experiences very vivid.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Trina

    If you want an eye-opening look into the effects of abuse, neglect, and poverty in the life of American foster children, read Calla Lilies by Kay Corbett. This inspiring story of survival is so well-written that it could only come from the life of the author. Although much of the book is very sad, I enjoyed it so much that it was hard to put down. I felt connected to the four sisters and to Kay, pulling for them until the end of the story. I am so glad that Kay Corbett decided to share this stor If you want an eye-opening look into the effects of abuse, neglect, and poverty in the life of American foster children, read Calla Lilies by Kay Corbett. This inspiring story of survival is so well-written that it could only come from the life of the author. Although much of the book is very sad, I enjoyed it so much that it was hard to put down. I felt connected to the four sisters and to Kay, pulling for them until the end of the story. I am so glad that Kay Corbett decided to share this story. This book is definitely worth a read, or two!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim Hampton

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. It was basically a dialogue of phone conversations between the author and her four stepdaughters, two of whom she raised for awhile. It documents the struggles they had as children, and the resulting problems they had as adults. At times I felt like the author was enabling their bad behavior by sending them money and paying fines and bonds for them when they were in trouble, but I can certainly understand why she felt she needed to do those things fo I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. It was basically a dialogue of phone conversations between the author and her four stepdaughters, two of whom she raised for awhile. It documents the struggles they had as children, and the resulting problems they had as adults. At times I felt like the author was enabling their bad behavior by sending them money and paying fines and bonds for them when they were in trouble, but I can certainly understand why she felt she needed to do those things for her daughters to at least know that someone cared about them. An interesting read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patty

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Woolbright

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Dale

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ann Swan

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Gay

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Anastasia Mccaskill

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shirlea

  17. 5 out of 5

    Crissy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

  19. 4 out of 5

    Whittney

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christina Borgoyn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Teressa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ann

  28. 4 out of 5

    susan Johnson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  31. 5 out of 5

    J

  32. 5 out of 5

    Jam

  33. 4 out of 5

    Ella

  34. 4 out of 5

    Wen Budro

  35. 5 out of 5

    Tierney

  36. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  37. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  38. 5 out of 5

    Michele Freeman

  39. 5 out of 5

    April Forker

  40. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Hess

  41. 5 out of 5

    Velda

  42. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Schauer

  43. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  44. 4 out of 5

    Sam Reid

  45. 5 out of 5

    Terry Foster

  46. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  47. 4 out of 5

    Katie Harder-schauer

  48. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  49. 4 out of 5

    Alesha

  50. 5 out of 5

    Pat Eells

  51. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

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