Several months ago, we received a call from a woman who claimed to be my husband Ian’s cousin. She had the same last name, but who knows these days with all the scammers in the world. We had our doubts.
She had met with Ian’s brothers first and they attested to her seeming legitimacy. The cousin she purported to be was the child of a long-disowned uncle. For years we had heard the stories about my father-in-law’s cut-off brother, Joey. Seems there was a falling out in the family over financial obligations and the brother was no longer considered mishbachah. So we knew nothing about his family.
That’s where Jenna Rose Robbins comes in. Hers is a fascinating story growing up in New York similarly to my husband and me, going off to college and pursuing her dreams. Except her father seemed to be connected to some pretty shady folks, and Jenna later became a vagabond of sorts, endlessly traveling the world without the formal ties that keep most of us grounded to one locale. She details some of her nomad life, along with a particular obsession with an alternative band of my young adulthood, Depeche Mode, in her 2017 book “Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict.”
Jenna gave me the book when we reunited recently and discussed our shared passion for writing. She had stopped in Atlanta to meet us as a pause in her regular travel schedule. I didn’t expect to like the book; I’m a pretty critical reader, being a writer myself. Plus, I didn’t think I’d relate to an obsession over a band. I never had one. But it was action-packed with drunken escapades and encounters with the band, also in various stages of inebriation. And I learned about my husband’s family by reading about Jenna’s life. She doesn’t shy away from any of the details about her father’s secret life, which resulted in plenty of special favors and gifts, nor the incident that separated our family.
Estrangement is nothing new on my side of the family either. At least two examples immediately come to my mind. But I prefer to look on the bright side. Jenna reached out to us to reconnect as I have done with family members that may have been cut off from others in my immediate circles. Like our writing gene and our last name, Jenna and I share an ability to take the step toward reconciliation. In truth, it wasn’t even her fight, or mine.
I also have a story to tell about travels and family reunions. My novel “Hands of Gold,” set for a release next year, is loosely based on my grandfather’s travels from war-torn Hungary to the goldene medinah, America. Along the way, readers learn about his adventures, his near-death experiences and his triumphs in the face of daunting odds. In “Hands of Gold,” he left behind his family to face the horrors of the Holocaust, but is later reunited with his brother, who survived the terror.
Until my book is released, I highly recommend my cousin Jenna’s “Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict” for anyone who has ever been obsessed by a band, traveled on a shoestring budget as I did as a young adult, or is willing to take risks to fulfill a fantasy.
“Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict” is available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Faithful-Devoted-Confessions-Music-Addict/dp/0998176060.