Little Avalanches: A Memoir (Hardcover)

Little Avalanches: A Memoir By Becky Ellis Cover Image

Little Avalanches: A Memoir (Hardcover)


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A daughter’s quest for truth. A soldier’s fight for survival. Their shared search for understanding.

Little Avalanches is a gorgeously written memoir of breathtaking scope that propels readers from the beaches of California in the early ‘70s to the battlefields of World War II.

As a young girl, Becky is forced to hide from phantom Nazis, subjected to dental procedures without pain medication, and torn from her mother again and again. Growing up in the shadow of her father’s PTSD, she wants to know what is wrong but knows not to ask.

Her father won’t talk about being a Timberwolf, a unit of specially trained night fighters that went into combat first and experienced a 300 percent casualty rate. He returns home with thirteen medals, including a Silver Star, and becomes a doctor and well-respected member of the community, but is haunted by his past.

Seeing only his explosive and often dangerous personality, Becky distances herself from the man she wants to love. Yet on the eve of his ninetieth birthday, when Becky looks at the vulnerable man he’s become, something shifts, and she asks about the war. He breaks seventy years of silence, offering an unfiltered account of war without glory and revealing the extent of the trauma he’s endured. She spends the next several years interviewing, researching, and ultimately understanding the demons she inherited.

Because his story is incomplete without hers, and hers is inconceivable without his, Ellis offers both, as well as their year-long aching conversation marked by moments of redeeming grace. With compassionate, unflinching writing, Little Avalanches reminds us that we are profoundly shaped by the secrets we keep and forever changed by the stories we share.
Becky Ellis is a Timberwolf Pup. The daughter of a highly decorated World War II combat sergeant, she is a veteran of a war fought at home. She earned a BA in English Literature at UC Berkeley and has over twenty years of experience in the publishing industry. She teaches writing in Portland, Oregon, where she lives, plays, and has raised three daughters. Little Avalanches is her debut memoir.
Product Details ISBN: 9798888451663
Publisher: Regalo Press
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 248
Language: English
“A moving…and ultimately cathartic examination of wartime trauma across generations.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Ellis expertly balances pain with compassion as she plunges into the depths of her father’s PTSD armed with frank and flinty prose. It’s a radiant and healing account.”
Publishers Weekly

“We children of World War II combat veterans are all sisters and brothers of the same father. That father was dark, brooding, sometimes violent. Countless books on that war have focused on men. In Little Avalanches, we hear from one daughter. Becky Ellis has produced a masterpiece. There’s no other book out there like this—a daughter-father story of pain, and then in the end, redemption.”
Dale Maharidge, nonfiction Pulitzer Prize winner, and the author of Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War, and the podcast, The Dead Drink

“In a world where few subjects are taboo, the impact of war on veterans and their families remains largely hidden from public view. Becky Ellis cuts through the darkness with her memoir, Little Avalanches. Ellis is a brave and tireless storyteller who crosses an emotional and psychological minefield between herself and her war hero father. She emerges victorious on the other side, with childhood demons slayed and in possession of a mature compassion for herself and her father. This memoir reads like a novel. You won’t be able to put it down.”
Jennifer Lauck, New York Times bestselling author of Blackbird

“There is a great deal of academic and popular interest in how parents’ experiences of trauma shape the lives of their children. Books such as Mark Wolynn’s It Didn’t Start with You have become wildly popular. But the stories around World War II continue to focus on the heroism of the men who fought and died, or for those who survived, their silence. Limited attention has been paid to World War II veterans’ struggles to integrate once returning home. The stories of the women and children who lived with these men and suffered from their struggles are strikingly absent. Little Avalanches offers compelling insight into the childhood of an American girl whose father fought in World War II and suffered, like so many veterans, with undiagnosed PTSD. He continued to fight the war at home, treating his children like military recruits. However, Little Avalanches is much more than a memoir of a troubled childhood. In following Becky from her childhood fighting phantom Nazis, to her adult quest to understand her father’s experience, we are offered a roadmap for the journey from victim to hero, from pain to compassion, and from isolation to connection. On a personal note, my maternal grandfather was a World War II combat veteran, who suffered from PTSD, including nightmares and outbursts of anger until he died. His experience and that of my other relatives who fought in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan is part of what drove me to study psychological trauma and PTSD. This book motivated me to consider how my grandfathers’ experience of World War II shaped my mother’s childhood and, through her, my own. Becky Ellis’s memoir has also inspired me to examine how children’s experience of their parents’ trauma changes over their lives and the healing gained by children through their understanding parents’ experience.”
Karestan C. Koenen, Ph.D., Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; Director, Biology of Trauma Initiative, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

“Becky Ellis’ beautiful memoir Little Avalanches is the story of a man on the frontlines of history and the daughter he raised to fight the war he survived but never left. It’s about trauma threading from one generation to the next, and how the stories we never wanted to remember bring us back to ourselves and each other, but most of all create room for the messy, complicated, all-powerful compassion that heals us. From hippies to Nazi collaborators, Ellis carries us through decades and across continents, transforming how we might see everything in between.”
Janine Urbaniak Reid, author of The Opposite of Certainty

Little Avalanches is a lifeline to families struggling to understand why Grunts come home and wound those they love. While there is no one truth in combat, only unique truths of the same experience, Becky Ellis has written a universal truth about the beast that prolonged combat unleashes and has shown us a way to share our stories and begin to heal. I saw both of my daughters’ faces in these pages and am grateful to Ellis for telling the story nobody else would.”
Cpl. Robert Topping, United States Marine Corps, Grunt-1968-1970; 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Company, 1st Platoon

“Women and children have suffered for generations under the control and violence of men, fathers, and husbands. So great is the pain that the response of some daughters is to slam the door shut on their fathers and have nothing more to do with them. In this gripping and unique memoir, Little Avalanches, Becky Ellis does something different—she waits and keeps the door open. Her story details the confusion and agony of young children and mothers and the emotional ‘ripping apart’ and hopelessness they experience. For decades she tries to dialogue with her father. One day he talks, she listens and records. Questions are asked, answered, understood, and both are healed. Her resilience and curiosity transform a nightmare.”
John Allan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Counseling Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

“Little Avalanches is a collection of heartbreaking, beautifully-written vignettes about trauma. In this unflinching memoir of survival, Becky Ellis shares the disorienting experience of loving a parent she both idolized and feared, attempting to reconcile three sides of her father: a brave World War II hero and doctor, a terrifying bully who abused his children and wives, and a doting grandfather who yearns for forgiveness. Ellis’s visceral, clear-headed prose made this book impossible to put down and left me shivering. Readers who have loved someone from the “Greatest Generation” will find resonance in these pages.”
Anna Bliss, author of Bonfire Night