Jean Anderson’s Nurturing from Afar recounts how Anderson and her sister maintained closeness to their parents, despite distance and unexpected circumstances.
The author and her twin, Joan, were born in 1930 and sent to live with relatives when seven months old because their mother contracted tuberculosis and was placed in a Detroit sanatorium. During the seven-year separation, they lived happily in Newfoundland with their grandmother. They knew their mother only through letters she wrote them, seven of which are reproduced here.
This short book, enhanced by family photographs, is roughly divided into two sections: the letters and narrative about the girls when their parents were gone and tales about life after the family was reunited. It ends as the girls leave for college.
For the twins, the letters were treasured communications from their far-away mother. “Although these letters were the only contact we had with our parents, when read to us by our grandmother, they nurtured us, taught us, and gave us a sense of family and hope for the coming years,” she writes.
In the missives, their mother updates the children on her routine (getting sun on the sanatorium roof), offers advice (love each other and behave), instructs (how to properly brush their teeth), and delivers family news. But the best part of the short letters are the detailed illustrations she drew—charming little sketches of her hospital bed, the flowers in her room, two little girls playing, and more.
The author is a capable writer whose straightforward narrative recounts stories typical of daily life in the 1930s and beyond. It’s the letters that stand out. They left a lasting impression on the twins, who grew up to be a nurse (the author) and an educator (her sister).
Anderson hopes that Nurturing from Afar will help other children and parents separated for whatever reason. Her memoir will be a cherished document for the author’s family, but even casual readers might appreciate her tale.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.