Book Review: Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra

Etched in Sand by Regina CalcaterraEtched in Sand: What it is about

The publisher says: “In this story of perseverance in the face of adversity, Regina Calcaterra recounts her childhood in foster care and on the streets—and how she and her savvy crew of homeless siblings managed to survive years of homelessness, abandonment, and abuse

Regina Calcaterra’s emotionally powerful memoir reveals how she endured a series of foster homes and intermittent homelessness in the shadow of the Hamptons, and how she rose above her past while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together.

Beautifully written and heartbreakingly honest, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.

Etched in Sand: What I thought

This is a very well-written book that I could not easily put down. The main character is the writer herself, who was part of a family with three sisters and a brother, and a neglectful mother. To make things worse, the mother took her anger out especially on Regina, so besides having to steal food in order to eat, and always being worried about people breaking in at night, she got beaten up by her mother on a regular basis.

Sometimes they had to sleep in a car, other times they lived in a more or less unfurnished house. Most of the time, they didn’t have enough to eat. Calcaterra claims her mother only kept her children around her for the welfare vouchers that she’d get for them. She would disappear for weeks on end, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Eventually, Regina finds a way out and we read about her remarkable career into politics.

The story tells about the problems Regina faced when they had no money for food and hardly a roof above their heads, but still very determined not to be discovered by the authorities, who would be guaranteed to take the kids into foster care, and break up their family. The children wanted to stay together whatever it took, until it became too much, even for them.

As is often the case in this kind of situation, Regina had several teachers who helped her along, insisting that education was the way out for her. And so it was.

This book reminded me of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. However, Calcaterra is very bitter towards her mother and shows her no mercy, whereas Walls, who grew up in similar circumstances, always believed in the good of her parents.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 408

First published: 2013

I got this: from William Morroa for review

Genre: memoir, non-fiction

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

8 Responses to Book Review: Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra

  1. Mystica says:

    Sounds sad. Maybe not for me.

  2. Caroline says:

    I loved The Glass Castle but this sounds good too. I can’t blame anyone for feeling bitter. It would be good to be able to move on but I can still understand.

  3. Nice review! Would surely take it up some time to learn how Regina finds her way around things and gets success and freedom

  4. Isi says:

    I knew the book when Allison reviewed it (she loved it), and I also thought that it would be great to read it since I liked The glass castle too.

  5. J Fanelli says:

    I’ve just started and am enjoying this memoir, but for the egregious errors made in describing the geography of Long Island. The author should have taken more care to get these details right. Amityville is not close to the Smith Haven Mall.

    • Leeswammes says:

      That’s odd, Fanelli. You’d expect the author to know these details or to have them checked. It didn’t bother me, because I don’t know this anyway. Glad you’re enjoying the book anyway.

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