“I found myself becoming increasingly angry. Undoubtedly, much of my rage grew out of the abuse and fear I lived with every day at home. But I had a deeper frustration: I didn’t seem to belong anywhere. I was not normal. It wasn’t so much that I looked different from other members of my family or dressed differently from my classmates; I was different. And the aching feelings of loneliness and doubt, which I kept to myself, hurt more than my father’s frequent beatings.

I struggled since I was six or seven years old to figure out whom I could depend on, whom I could trust. By fourteen, I began to ask myself another question in earnest: Who am I?  I was Walter to my friends on Third Street, to my teachers at school and to my parents at home. I knew, though, that this boy Walter spoke and acted very differently in all three places and felt complete in none.” — Walter Anderson

Source: Meant to Be: The True Story of a Son who Discovers He is his Mother’s Deepest Secret, page 21, by Walter Anderson. Harper Collins, New York: New York. 2003.

Genre: Memoir, Biography


Meant to Be is Walter Anderon’s account of growing up in a home dominated by his abusive, alcoholic father who frequently beat and belittled Walter and his family. Throughout his childhood, Walter struggled with anger and frequently got in fights with peers or sabotaged any success he made in school. As much as Walter wanted to escape his troubled life at home, feelings of fear and self-doubt held him back. Walter pushed away those who gave him attention or showed kindness, at the same time savoring the fleeting feelings of belonging, that he mattered…and was special. He never forgot those few, precious memories. Despite his mother’s attempts to placate his father, the abuse continued until Walter finally escaped from home by joining the Marines at age 16 where he was enlisted into Vietnam. For the first time Walter experienced structure, discpline and a sense of belonging in the ranks of the Marines. Initially the hardships of the War combined with the prejudice Walter faced returning to a nation where many people took their frustration about the War, and the social upheveal of the country, onto the Veterans, caused Walter to again revert to anger, fighting and sabotaging his own success. It seemed the past was creeping up on him… However, Walter eventually was able to see that striking out against others–even if he felt justified–made him no different from his abusive father. This would propel Walter into making changes to break the cycle of violence he had experienced.  

Now on his own, Walter begins a very different life–for the first time, he persued the dreams long denied to him. He got married, had children and learned values of love, loyalty and intimacy never experienced before. And after the death of his father, he learns a secret that his mother has been keeping all his life…that will change Walter’s perception of himself, and cause him to question and search for who he really is.