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Ann Eklund
The Ribbon Untied, A Journey to Finding a Family
Ann Eklund, author

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

Are you searching for someone missing from your family tree? Ann was. Her husband, Chuck, was born out of wedlock in 1944 and raised by his mother, Mary Lou, and a stepfather. Chuck grew up an only child, thinking that his mother was the only blood relative he had. After his stepfather dies of a heart attack in 1966 and Mary Lou succumbs to cancer in 1972, Chuck needs to sell the family home. As Chuck and Ann clean everything out of Mary Lou’s house, they unearth a shoebox full of love letters tied with a red ribbon. Postmarked during World War II and addressed to Mary Lou, the letters were written over a span of two and a half years—by an American pilot. Could this be Chuck’s missing father? With no effective way to search and no one to ask, Chuck and Ann can only ponder and speculate. Until the World Wide Web comes into existence! Aided by the tools of the internet and her own tenacity, Ann embarks on a genealogical quest to unravel the mystery...
In 1972, Ann Eklund and her husband, Chuck, discovered a box of letters and pictures tied with a red ribbon in the closet of Chuck’s late mother. Untying that ribbon proved the first step on a journey the couple would take to uncover surprising family secrets and the identity of his biological father–whom he had never known existed. Spurred on by the mystery unfolding in front of them, Ann’s memoir recounts the winding story of their efforts to discover Chuck’s biological family. Through “putting a jigsaw puzzle together” from hundreds of saved photos, documents, and personal connections, Ann and Chuck take the risks—and the rewarding adventure—of reaching out to a newfound family. Ann tells the story while offering a warm, engaging portrait of her romance with Chuck, whom she dubs “the love of my life,” and touching tribute to his mother, Mary Lou.

Told from Ann’s perspective, The Ribbon Untied captures Chuck and Ann’s quest for answers, with vivid detail and attention paid to what each step felt like. Ann’s handling of the story is well-paced and chronological, with judicious excerpts from vintage letters. The focus on travel and meals might strike some readers as minutiae, but they capture the texture of the couple’s search plus their processing and celebration of new information in an era when people rooting out genealogical information both before and during the age of Google. Still, some passages read more like quick updates than an in-depth retelling.

Ann’s account of diving into research will resonate with readers fascinated by the complexity of and American life, though readers attempting to find their own long-lost family will find little practical advice as this account is more attentive to personal stories and emotional impact. Ann closes with well-curated photos of Chuck’s family from the past (and as recently as 2018) that lend an intimate perspective to this interesting memoir.

Takeaway: This warm memoir digs into a secret family history after a husband and wife uncover a life-changing surprise in a shoebox.

Great for fans of: Bess Kalb’s Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Vince Granata’s Everything Is Fine.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B