Cynthia Blakeley, PhD

The Innermost House: A Memoir

University of Massachusetts Press, Bright Leaf, Fall 2024

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A hybrid memoir, The Innermost House melds stories from my precarious upbringing in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, with scholarly commentary on how we remember, why we forget, and the choices we all, and especially memoirists, make in our curation of the past. An ambitious work of hauntings and healings, The Innermost House interweaves findings from recent research on autobiographical memory with my memories, my mother’s secrets, and family history while providing a rare local perspective on growing up in an evocative and fabled landscape. 

Each of the book’s nine chapters addresses significant types of autobiographical memory, including “impossible” memories, family secrets, recovered memory, dreams, and motivated forgetting. The book also illustrates how we develop a narrative identity that grounds us in a meaningful life. Detailed endnotes support its scientific and social scientific observations, allowing the story to remain accessible and adroit in its unfolding.

In a succinct, lyrical style, The Innermost House’s braided through lines of personal and family stories lead from difficult beginnings and disastrous choices to unexpected redemptions and the kind of growth and forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, that allow us to live more companionably with the past.

Book Cover, Title: The Innermost House, Photo of five children at beach
Book Cover: Four cousins and I at Lecount Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, MA / Photo by George H. Power
Childhood home on Lecount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet, MA
Robert V. Blakeley, my father
Map created by Megan Slemons, Emory Center for Digital Scholarship
Mother sitting on grass with two-year-old child.
My mother and I, South Wellfleet, 1961