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  • Writer's pictureMax Sinsheimer

SOLD! Saving Ellen (by Maura Casey)

“This is a story for anyone who has refused to give up on someone, including themselves. Especially themselves.” –Connie Shultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Maura Casey is an accomplished journalist and former NYT Editorial Board member who wrote a brilliant memoir during the depths of the pandemic that I've just sold to Jesse McHugh at Skyhorse. It's a coming-of-age memoir that explores how illness can become the dark star around which all familial hopes and fears rotate – even if others, too, need help.

Financial privation and her father’s drunken scenes formed the backdrop to Maura’s childhood, but it was her older sister Ellen’s diagnosis with terminal kidney disease that plunged her large Irish family into chaos. Determined to see Ellen live to adulthood, Maura’s mother fought medical advice and legal barriers to donate her own kidney, concealing what she and the doctors understood at the time: that the operation would take years off her own life. As her mother confronted this terrible choice to save Ellen’s life, and her father wallowed in alcoholism and infidelity, Maura found her own courage to survive. 

Maura’s memoir, which is set in Buffalo amidst the social upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, interweaves her father’s alcoholism and the roots of her own; her recovery; her irrepressible sister Ellen, who fought to claim her dream of becoming an athlete; her smart, feminist mother, whose WWII service prepared her to manage her own platoon of six children; and her troubled father who, at the end, was haunted by his shortcomings and regrets. Despite hard truths, Saving Ellen is ultimately a story of humor at unexpected moments, the unmerited grace of reconciliation, and gratitude. Or as NYT-bestselling author Luanne Rice praised it, a “shimmering memoir of childhood, tender and honest, full of tumult and complicated love.”

Ellen Casey, left, 7; Maura Casey, right, 5, in 1962

Maura Casey has been an opinion writer for three New England newspapers and The New York Times, where she held a seat on the exalted Times editorial board. She has won 45 writing and journalism awards, including the prestigious Scripps-Howard Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing. This is her debut book.

Here is the Publishers Marketplace deal memo:

Congratulations to Maura and her editor, Jesse!


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