Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Girl Unbroken: A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho, by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney. William Morrow, 2016

“Girl Unbroken” is a truly horrific true story of one child growing up in multiple abusive settings. Rosie’s mother, Cookie, is mentally ill, an alcoholic and drug abuser, and reacts to anything with anger and anger brought out her violent side.

Cookie had five children by five different men. None of the men stayed in her life. The three older sisters escaped- I believe their story is told in “Etched in Sand”, Regina Calcaterra’s first book. That left Rosie and her older brother Norm to live on the streets, get sent to a foster home that was almost as bad as being with Cookie, get kidnapped by Cookie and moved to Idaho, and end up living on a farm owned by Cookie’s boyfriend as basically slave labor. Rosie also was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend.

How all five of these people not only survived this torrent of mental, physical, and sexual abuse but turned out to be good, productive, good hearted adults is beyond me. They were born with spines of steel. Thanks to her older sisters, Rosie believes in herself despite the things her mother says to her about her worthlessness. Not only does she do all the farm chores, but she makes straight A’s and is active as a cheerleader and is in many school activities and attends church. Is she perfect? Almost but not quite. She abuses alcohol for a while in high school, but has the self-awareness to stop when confronted about it. Against all odds, she has made a good life for herself.

The book, as I said, is horrific. It’s a can’t-put-it-down read because you have to know what horrible thing her mother or step father will inflict on her next. Rosie is one of the abused children who fell through the cracks of a system that is supposed to save them. My heart aches for the child she was. 

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I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for a fair review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  


  1. Would it be helpful to read the earlier book first? I'm not sure though that I'm ready for so much sadness.

    1. I noticed some other reviewers said it was better if one had read 'Etched in Sand' first. I'm thinking about reading it, but I need some time away from that monster of a 'mother'! It's heartbreaking that kids had to go through that, but Rosie is totally "so I just picked myself up and..." about it all that a lot of the emotional impact it could have had is missing.