Rescuing Patty Hearst

Early on, the life of Gingie Holman seemed average and unremarkable. She lived in Virginia with her parents and her sister. Her father worked steadily, while her mother stayed home and looked after the children. Every so often, the family would repair to their vacation home, a tiny, crumbling cottage on the Virginia peninsula. By and large, Virginia Holman was happy.

Then, her mother begins to change. First, she insists that the United States government has left a message that reveals her mission regarding the Vietnam War. Her charge is to speed to the cottage and convert it to a field hospital for children displaced by the war. She gathers Gingie and her sister and they relocate to the cottage. To prepare for their task, they visit a local department store and buy every coat and pair of child-sized footwear in stock. Gingie looks on as her mother applies black paint to every window, to thwart the view of the enemy. They used neither telephone nor very many other modern conveniences, to minimize distractions. To cope, Gingie imagines herself as Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a fringe organization and who eventually took the side of her abductors. Gingie wonders how Patty Hearst might have handled her circumstances.

Still, for all of the mother’s eccentricities, the most chilling moment involves Gingie herself. One evening, having retreated to the surrounding woods, she encounters what looks to her like a refugee child. Gingie entreats the girl to come to the cottage, but she wordlessly slips away into the trees.

Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad reveals a sad but resolute cast, each trying to make sense of their tormented world. Holman offers a touching final scene in which she revisits the cottage as an adult and makes her best effort to forgive her past.