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All content © Judy L. Mandel 2008 - 2013


Judy Mandel is the replacement child for her sister who was killed. It would be years before she would understand how the tragic accident that happened before she was born shaped her life and her relationships.

Replacement Child tells the true story of the aftermath of a horrifying accident: a plane crashes into a family’s home, leaving one daughter severely burned and another dead. The death of the child leaves a hole in the family that threatens to tear it apart - but in a great act of hope, the parents give birth to a “replacement child,” born to fill the painful gap.

In this powerful story of love and lies, hope and forgiveness, Judy Mandel tells the story of being the child brought into the world to provide “a salve for the burns.” As a child, she unwittingly rides the deep and hidden currents of her family’s grief - until her discovery of the truth, years later, changes her life forever, forcing her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister.

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Publishers Weekly Says. . .

In this well-researched tribute to her parents, journalist Mandel explores how a freak accident altered the fate of her family in 1952. What began as a normal January school day ended with the crash of American Airlines Flight 6780 into the Mandel family home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, three miles outside Newark airport. In addition to the oldest Mandel daughter, the pilot and all 22 passengers died that day. Following the recent loss of her parents, the author decides to piece together the event that incinerated one sister, left another sister severely burned, and prompted her conception as a "replacement" child. By cleverly shifting between recent years and the day of the crash, Mandel weaves together chapters of real and imagined scenes building to the inevitable. "I read that replacement children often feel they can never live up to the memory of the dead children. I recognize myself in some of the descriptions of those with this affliction." Without seeking to give a greater significance to the issue, the book grapples with the random forces that shape modern life. The parents who survive and overcome the death of a child emerge as true heroes, celebrating family birthdays and, eventually, becoming grandparents.

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