“A memoir of painstaking clarity, Estranged illuminates the isolation of childhood misery and the grown heart’s hungry quest for a safe home. For the many of us hell-bent on reality in spite of crazy origins, Berger Gross proves a sane and indispensable friend who understands in her bones that this hunt is a dire matter of survival.” —Susanna Sonnenberg, author of Her Last Death and She Matters: A Life in Friendships

“In a world that celebrates the bonds of mothers and children, and surrounds us with images of happy families celebrating their love, Jessica Berger has made a brave and lonely choice to cut ties with her family and their abuse—and braver still, has chosen to tell us about it. That she survived with the strength to get away is a testimony to her courage. Many readers will recognize their own story, or a piece of it, in this one, and when they do, find comfort.”
—Joyce Maynard, New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day, At Home in the World and The Best of Us


“In Estranged, Jessica Berger Gross asks the ultimate question: What is love? Her answer beautifully exposes its complexity, laced with longing, betrayal, and redemption. Specific in its circumstances but universal in its themes, her story is striking in its humanity.” — Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist, The Atlantic contributing editor and Dear Therapist columnist, and author of the forthcoming Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

“Estranged captures the sorrow of a hurt child with stunning intimacy. Berger Gross weaves a tale of heartbreak and triumph from the sticky, knotted threads of family, trauma, and identity. A tender and beautiful read.”
—Leah Vincent, author of Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood

“There’s nothing more safe and comforting than a loving family, and nothing more dangerous than a violent one. In this brave, gripping memoir, Jessica Berger Gross recounts her traumatic childhood in a ‘nice’ Jewish home on Long Island and her bold decision to break away for good. Estranged is at turns haunting, infuriating, and inspiring. It’s an unforgettable story for our time.”
—Eric Klinenberg, Author of Going Solo and co-author of Modern Romance

A powerful, haunting memoir about one woman’s childhood of abuse and her harrowing decision to leave it all behind that redefines our understanding of estrangement and the ability to triumph over adversity.

To outsiders, Jessica Berger Gross’s childhood—growing up in a “nice” Jewish family in middle class Long Island—seemed as wholesomely American as any other. But behind closed doors, Jessica suffered years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father, whose mood would veer unexpectedly from loving to violent.

At the age of twenty-eight, still reeling from the trauma but emotionally dependent on her dysfunctional family, Jessica made the anguished decision to cut ties with them entirely. Years later, living in Maine with a loving husband and young son, having finally found happiness, Jessica is convinced the decision saved her life.

In her powerful memoir reminiscent of Jeannette Walls’s bestseller The Glass Castle, Jessica breaks through common social taboos and bravely recounts the painful, self-defeating ways in which she internalized her abusive childhood, how she came to the monumental decision to break free from her family, and how she endured the difficult road that followed. Ultimately, by extracting herself from the damaging patterns and relationships of the past, Jessica has managed to carve an inspiring path to happiness—one she has created on her own terms. Her story, told here in a careful, unflinching, and forthright way, completely reframes how we think about family and the past.