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Girl Unbroken

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In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller Etched in Sand, Regina Calcaterra pairs with her youngest sister Rosie to tell Rosie’s harrowing, yet ultimately triumphant, story of childhood abuse and survival.

They were five kids with five different fathers and an alcoholic mother who left them to fend for themselves for weeks at a time. Yet through it all they had each other. Rosie, the youngest, is fawned over and shielded by her older sister, Regina. Their mother, Cookie, blows in and out of their lives “like a hurricane, blind and uncaring to everything in her path.”

But when Regina discloses the truth about her abusive mother to her social worker, she is separated from her younger siblings Norman and Rosie. And as Rosie discovers after Cookie kidnaps her from foster care, the one thing worse than being abandoned by her mother is living in Cookie’s presence. Beaten physically, abused emotionally, and forced to labor at the farm where Cookie settles in Idaho, Rosie refuses to give in. Like her sister Regina, Rosie has an unfathomable strength in the face of unimaginable hardship—enough to propel her out of Idaho and out of a nightmare.

Filled with maturity and grace, Rosie’s memoir continues the compelling story begun in Etched in Sand—a shocking yet profoundly moving testament to sisterhood and indomitable courage.

416 pages, ebook

Published October 18, 2016

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About the author

Regina Calcaterra

3 books325 followers
Regina Calcaterra’s memoir Etched in Sand, A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island (HarperCollins Publishing, 2013) is a #1 international best-seller and a New York Times best-seller.  As a result of Etched in Sand’s messages of resilience, optimism, the plight of foster children, that no child is a lost cause and how we can all positively impact the life of a child in need, it has been integrated into college and high school curricula throughout the U.S. and been selected for community reads. She is also co-author of Etched in Sand’s sequel which she wrote with her younger sister Rosie Maloney, Girl Unbroken, A Sister’s Harrowing Journey from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho (HarperCollins Publishing, 2016). Girl Unbroken has also been integrated into college curricula alongside Etched in Sand.

Etched in Sand’s and Girl Unbroken’s impactful messages include those of resilience, optimism and perseverance; how kind acts can forever impact a child in need; the vital role of the public library system, public education and the public university system on impoverished children; how educators can forever impact transient children; that no child is a lost cause; childhood hunger, poverty, abuse, abandonment & homelessness; the power of sibling bonds; risk of homelessness for young adults aging out of foster care parentless; determination to succeed regardless of social status; and breaking the cycles of addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, homelessness and incarceration.

Calls to Action

Etched in Sand and Girl Unbroken have resulted in readers and those who have heard Regina speak: adopting older foster youth; becoming first time foster parents; changing the rules of a food bank that now allow children to get food without no longer requiring that they be accompanied by a parent; further developing the first program at a Long Island library that provides library cards for the homeless to allow them to access all of the library’s resources, although they do not have a permanent address; becoming guardian at litem and CASA members to ensure that every child in foster care has a voice; learning how we can all forever impact the life of a child in need although they may only be before us for a moment in time; and, increasing fundraising goals and/or becoming first time contributors to related community based organizations. Additionally, after learning that foster youth age out of the system parentless, a teen created an annual event called Teens Gotta Believe, where he raises community awareness about the need for adoptive parents for older foster youth and raises funds for You Gotta Believe, a not-for-profit that works towards getting older foster youth forever homes.

Professional Bio

Regina is a partner at the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein where she practices securities litigation and federal civil rights litigation. Prior to joining Wolf Haldenstein, she served as Executive Director to two of the New York State Governor’s statewide investigatory commissions, Deputy General Counsel to the New York State Insurance Fund, Chief Deputy to the Suffolk County Executive, Deputy General Counsel to the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Director of Intergovernmental Relations to the New York City Comptroller and a partner in a securities litigation firm.

Board & Advisory Positions

Regina serves as the second vice chair to the SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board; as an Ambassador to Library for All, a global effort to eradicate childhood illiteracy in third-world countries; and, on the Advisory Committee to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. For close to ten years, she served as a board member to You Gotta Believe, an organization that works to get older foster youth adopted.

Honors & Awards

She has received awards and honors such as the: Lifetime Achievement Award, Primi-Dieci Society and the Italy-American Chamber of Commer

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5 stars
2,207 (59%)
4 stars
1,198 (32%)
3 stars
260 (6%)
2 stars
35 (<1%)
1 star
17 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 290 reviews
Profile Image for Elena.
17 reviews1 follower
November 6, 2016
I read "Etched in Sand" last year and had the privilege of meeting Regina Calcaterra when she came to meet with the book club that I belong to. The book was amazing and I was absolutely in awe of Regina. I have been eagerly awaiting Rosie's book and it is just as terrific. I got the chance to see Regina again when she spoke at my local library with Rosie on Skype. While both women suffered through abusive childhoods, they have managed to break the cycle of abuse to become positive,loving and successful people. They are truly inspiring! A must read!
Profile Image for Donna.
39 reviews3 followers
April 16, 2017
I would have to say that this was not an easy book to get through! I had to keep putting it down. Unlike Etched in Sand, whereas I couldn't wait to see Regina overcome her hardships...Rosie's life was much harder to be a part of. It was very upsetting to say the least. Her life of abuse was disturbing. How a child lived a life of physical, mental and sexual abuse as she did is unspeakable. I kept reading hoping she would persevere. I'm glad I did! God bless this child/woman for overcoming a life of horror! And blessed are those who helped her! It was at her turning point in this book that allowed me continue on reading. May nothing short of happiness be with her each and every day! Hoping her love for her children and family and their milestones she will share in their lives will help her get through the haunting memories of her past.
Profile Image for Laurie.
942 reviews37 followers
July 28, 2016
“Girl Unbroken” is a truly horrific true story of one child growing up in multiple abusive settings. Rosie’s mother, Cookie, is mentally ill, an alcoholic and drug abuser, and reacts to anything with anger and anger brought out her violent side.

Cookie had five children by five different men. None of the men stayed in her life. The three older sisters escaped- I believe their story is told in “Etched in Sand”, Regina Calcaterra’s first book. That left Rosie and her older brother Norm to live on the streets, get sent to a foster home that was almost as bad as being with Cookie, get kidnapped by Cookie and moved to Idaho, and end up living on a farm owned by Cookie’s boyfriend as basically slave labor. Rosie also was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend.

How all five of these people not only survived this torrent of mental, physical, and sexual abuse but turned out to be good, productive, good hearted adults is beyond me. They were born with spines of steel. Thanks to her older sisters, Rosie believes in herself despite the things her mother says to her about her worthlessness. Not only does she do all the farm chores, but she makes straight A’s and is active as a cheerleader and is in many school activities and attends church. Is she perfect? Almost but not quite. She abuses alcohol for a while in high school, but has the self-awareness to stop when confronted about it. Against all odds, she has made a good life for herself.

The book, as I said, is horrific. It’s a can’t-put-it-down read because you have to know what horrible thing her mother or step father will inflict on her next. Rosie is one of the abused children who fell through the cracks of a system that is supposed to save them. My heart aches for the child she was.

Profile Image for Tabatha.
125 reviews8 followers
August 3, 2016
I received this book through a Library Thing giveaway. And I am so thankful I was able to read this.
This is the horrible true story of a child's abusive childhood. Rosie was verbally and physically abused by her alcoholic mother Cookie her whole childhood. And when she was finally taken away and put into foster care the abuse continued there until Cookie kidnapped her back and forced her to move from place to place as her mother went through men. The abuse that Rosie endured was heartbreaking and it was hard to fathom a mother treating her child the way she was treated. Through the love of her sisters and a few others she persevered. This book was an eye opener to the fact that the foster care system and child protective services doesn't always protect the way their supposed to. I couldn't put this book down!
Profile Image for Kathleen.
540 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2017
Girl Unbroken is a sequel to Etched in Sand, the true story of five children who suffered the unimaginable from the hands of their mother. In Etched in Sand, Regina tells her story of abuse and survival. In Girl Unbroken, the youngest child, Rosie, portrays the horror of living with an alcoholic and disturbed "mother", Cookie. I have read both books and Rosie's story is even worse than Regina's (if that is possible) because she lived with Cookie most of her life. Rosie had no childhood. After leaving New York for Idaho, Rosie and her brother, Norm lived out of their car or with their mother's boyfriends. They were forced into farm labor and withstood extreme physical and mental abuse. All these abuses happened without intervention from social services, neighbors, medical and educational services. This is a very sad story, yet an amazing one. These children rose above what happened to them to become fulfilled adults. Girl Unbroken is a difficult book to read but a story that should be told in the hopes that it can help someone else.
Profile Image for Jael.
465 reviews6 followers
October 21, 2016
If I ever met the Calcaterra siblings, I would want to give them a big hug. Girl Unbroken is the story of a horrific and abusive childhood, written by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney. This is the followup to Regina's book, Etched in Sand.

Girl Unbroken is Rosie's story.

The Calcaterrra siblings, Cherie, Camille, Regina, Norm, and Rosie, were saddled with the worst mother ever. Cookie Calcaterra gave birth to five children, but that doesn't make her a mother. She was in and out of her children's lives. She was known as "Hurricane Cookie," and that's a very accurate description. Cookie drank heavily, she stole from everyone, she wrote bad checks, and worst of all she took her anger out on her kids. Rosie was often on the receiving end of Cookie's rages.

Read the rest of my review at: http://asiturnthepages.blogspot.com/2...
Profile Image for Cathy Branciforte.
388 reviews17 followers
October 3, 2016
All I can say is wow, another amazing, un-put-down-able book by Regina Calcaterra, with her sister Rosie. It is hard to believe that the entire family has been able to lead normal lives after enduring the abuse that they did. Rosie's story is horrifying, especially how the system failed her so many times.
It's hard to say I "enjoyed" this book as much as it was an eye opening inside look into the life of an abused child and how much she endured and coped with the situation. Highly recommend.
Thanks to William Morrow and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy.
Profile Image for Anne.
655 reviews12 followers
August 29, 2016
I think I read this entire book with my heart in my throat. I was waiting for something horrible to happen, I was hoping for something wonderful to happen--and it did. I have the utmost admiration for Rosie finding the will to survive, the strength to forgive, the hope to keep going, and people who make her happy. I can't even imagine the feelings one must have after telling a story like this and then setting it free in the world.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
80 reviews
February 2, 2017
Such a sad story of a young girls life. I cried for many parts of this book, it was heart wrenching. I am very proud of these women for having the courage to write about their terrible childhood. I know it will help future kids in the same situation.
39 reviews
February 9, 2017
Don't know how they survived....brought me to tears more than once. Incredible story.
Profile Image for HR-ML.
1,056 reviews37 followers
May 11, 2020
A powerful true story about a birth family. This subject
matter was not an easy read, but optimism triumphed.

Cookie, mother of 4 daughters & 1 son, had her offspring
by 5 different men. One of the fathers had Mob connections,
and was murdered once released from prison. Cookie had a
mental illness, addiction to alcohol and later an addiction to
prescription painkillers. Cookie didn't know how to nurture
children or to be a mother. She left her children alone for
months at a time. Her children went w/o food, proper
clothes, heat, shelter and sometimes education. Her kids
in desperation ransacked the Salvation Army donation
drop-off boxes. She subjected her kids to physical & verbal
abuse. One daughter was married + the other 2 stayed with
the same foster care family.

This story focused on Cookie's youngest, Rosie. Cookie had
an unstable, vagabond life, with Rosie and son Norman.
Cookie had casual relationships with mostly alcoholic men.
Various adults showed true interest in Rosie IE teachers,
a librarian, mothers of friends. Two of Cookie's man friends
protected Rosie like a father would.

Cookie seemed to envy bright, pretty Rosie. Cookie physically
abused Rosie over the slightest provocation. Rosie called her
older sibs "human bumpers" when they protected Rosie
from their Mom. The foster care system had split up the sibs.

Rosie voiced "I sat again and tried to shrink inside myself.
If my mother didn't notice I was there, she might not
hurt me."

Cookie showed herself to be erratic + manipulative. At one pt
she attempted to run over Rosie + her sister with her car!
Cookie subjected Rosie to 2 pedophiles. Rosie outsmarted the
1st one + the 2nd forced fondling & oral sex on her. The 1st
landed in Cookie's BR wearing boxer shorts. Rosie saw $6o.
cash which proved Cookie's motives + complicit nature.
Rosie became emotionally scarred. A Mom's supposed to
protect her kids, not to feed them to wolves!

Rosie's story highlighted her quick-thinking and positive
actions about her future. She adjusted to news of her bi-
polar diagnosis at age 20. She+her spouse created a loving family.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,834 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2019
This is an autobiography of a young girl raised by a mom who had no business raising kids. It is unfathomable how some kids are failed by the system. This is one of those cases.

First, I loved the writing. Some of this had such an eloquent touch to it that pulled me right in and had me saying, "Wow". But then there were many moments filled with such tragedy and sadness, which seemed quadrupled because it involved children.....innocent little children. More safeguards are needed. I get that children are often trained to not talk about it and that seems to go against their basic needs. And it reminds me of the saying about the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.

Well done. So 4 stars.
Profile Image for Ari.
725 reviews20 followers
June 26, 2017
Another sad memoir, this way gave a bit more detail into the lives of 2 of the siblings. Well written.
Profile Image for Cindy Roesel.
Author 1 book60 followers
October 25, 2016
We first met Cookie, a pill-popping, alcoholic with five children from five different men in, ETCHED in THE SAND: A True Story of Five Siblings who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island (William Morrow) by her oldest daughter, Regina Calcaterra. Her only son, Norman, was spared her abusive tirades that included calling her four daughters “whores’ and “sluts.” Cookie would beat the girls, 4-year-old, Regina received the most brutal, once being tied to a radiator for days. These parts of the book leave the reader wondering how Regina grew up to be the successful woman we read about in the rest of the book.


Now Regina pairs with her youngest sister, Rosie Maloney to tell Rosie’s harrowing, yet triumphant, story of childhood abuse and survival in GIRL UNBROKEN: A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from The Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho (William Morrow). Through it all, they had each other. Rosie, the youngest, is protected by her older sister, Regina. Their mother, Cookie, blows in and out of their lives “like a hurricane, blind and uncaring to everything in her path.”

But when Regina discloses the truth about her abusive mother to her social worker, she is separated from her younger siblings Norman and Rosie. And as Rosie discovers after Cookie kidnaps her from foster care, the one thing worse than being abandoned by her mother is living in Cookie’s presence. Beaten physically, abused emotionally, and forced to labor at the farm where Cookie settles in Idaho, Rosie refuses to give in. Rosie tries to get child welfare services to investigate her mother in Idaho, but Cookie is always able to put up a good front for their visits. Like her sister Regina, Rosie has an unimaginable strength—enough to get her out of Idaho and out of her living nightmare.

Filled with maturity and grace, Rosie’s memoir continues the compelling story begun in ETCHED IN THE SAND. Both sisters are able to write about a past that would have destroyed most of us down, certainly scarred us. Perhaps writing is part of their healing.

I remember being intrigued to read ETCHED IN THE SAND because I’m also from Long Island and the oldest sister. I found it so sad, but I also found a hero in Regina, and now Rosie, as well. Rosie was fiercely protective of her siblings when they were all young, and carries guilt for not doing more.
Profile Image for Kivalina Mauck.
352 reviews
July 11, 2017
A must read

Tear jearker so have a big box of tissues. Rosie I wish you and your sibliglings did not have to live through all this but you did. You are all my heros. I read both of the books written about your family. What you all went through and now you are survivors and have broke that chain. I am happy for you.
36 reviews
November 29, 2016
Amazing, gut-wrenching sequel to Etched in Sand. This true story had me thoroughly captivated. Oh how I wish it was just fiction. A must-read story of perseverance amidst the most unimaginable circumstances.
Profile Image for Gail Nelson.
473 reviews4 followers
November 28, 2016
Gut wrenching and horrific tale about child abuse. Just when you think you've heard it all... Beautifully written as was Etched in Sand...
Profile Image for Karista.
9 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2018
After reading Etched In Sand I was invested and immediately read this book next. As with Etched In Sand, Girl Unbroken was simultaneously hard to put down and hard to read. The torture and abuse these children went through is unimaginable. How they protected and loved each other and knowing they went on to become successful adults was the only way I could keep reading at times. Thank you to the courageous authors for sharing their stories.
Profile Image for Janice Mcquaid.
300 reviews
December 29, 2019
Probably 4 1/2. If you liked Etched in Sand, you will want to read this book about what happens to the youngest of Cookie's children once she no longer has the protection of her older siblings. It is brutal to read but Rosie's honesty and courage are truly admirable. It is so incredibly sad what many children have to endure at the hands of their parents. It is also disappointing and infuriating how the systems in place to protect these children failed them. As a teacher, it is always a good reminder that we can and should be making a difference in the lives of children. In Rosie's case a teacher literally saved her!
213 reviews
July 4, 2017
This story goes along with Etched in Sand. The youngest sister, Rosie, tells what happened to her and her brother Norman after they are separated from the older sisters. Though Gi, the older sister, suffered heavily from her mother's abuse, Rosie's abusers, foster parents, mother, and mother's boyfriends, became very sadistic. The abuse was sickening and understandably left its mark on her. Tougher to read than Gi's story.
Profile Image for Lynn.
10 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2017
After reading Etched in Sand I could not wait to find out what happened to Rosie and Norm. So glad Regina and Rosie finished telling their story! They are strong courageous women and I admire them both!
Profile Image for Allison.
Author 1 book76 followers
November 27, 2016
Originally reviewed at The Book Wheel.

A couple of years ago, I read a powerfully moving book titled Etched in Sand. It’s the story of Regina Calcaterra and the abuses she and her four siblings endured at the hands of their mother and the utter failures of the foster care system. It’s a heartbreaking story that is hard to read but also showcases the power of perseverance. In her book, Calcaterra carefully protects her siblings by holding back on some of their experiences, partly because she was not always present, but mostly because it wasn’t her story to tell.

Now, three years later, Regina’s youngest sister, Rosie Maloney, is ready to share what she endured during the years that she was separated, along with her brother, from her siblings. LikeEtched in Sand, Girl Unbroken a difficult story to read, but it is such an important one. The story begins with Rosie, age 8, being taken away from her sisters and sent to foster care with her brother. This was to be a better life, for she spent her early years scrounging for food while their mother went on binges for weeks and months at a time with whomever her boyfriend was at the time. But foster care systems are often riddled with failures and, like many children, Rosie and her brother fell through the cracks. Rather than land in a safe place, they found themselves the victims of new types of abuses.

Upon hearing about the abuses, Rosie’s mother, Cookie, kidnaps her two youngest children and flees to Idaho. Over the next decade, Rosie and Norm endure physical, verbal, and emotional abuse while moving from one place to the next. Their mother, an alcoholic with a predictable mean streak and unpredictable ways of inflicting it, fluttered from one man to the next, but while their scenery changed, the abuse remained steady. Not unsurprisingly, many of these men were not good people, with some turning a blind eye to the abuse and others taking advantage of the situation and inflicting their own on them, particularly Rosie. The actions and their aftermath are devastating and I am in awe of Rosie for not only telling her story, but for surviving it in the first place. Girl Unbroken is aptly named, for most people would break under a fraction of the abuses that Rosie survived.

But shining through the darkness were pockets of light – the librarians who gave her safe shelter, the friends whose kindness saved her, her horses, and the salvation found in a high school teacher. There were men in her mother’s life who tried to care for the children, only to find themselves at the receiving end of Cookie’s rampages for diverting their attention from her. But it was Rosie’s fervent belief that she would one day be happy with her sisters again that kept her putting one foot in front of the other. Despite the beatings and battered self-esteem, the knowledge that she was loved and would one day be safe with her sisters allowed her to persevere against the odds.

Girl Unbroken is an incredible story of survival. Rosie, who was given every excuse to fail, chose to succeed. It wasn’t easy and she still, to this day, struggles with the longterm effects of her upbringing, but her determination to make a better life for herself and her family is palpable. Despite the horrors described within these pages, and they are plentiful, it is clear that Rosie was a fierce child who ultimately found peace as a fierce adult.

Profile Image for Marilyn.
127 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2017
Having read Etched In Sand, I was compelled to read Regina Cacaterra's sister's perspective. Having grown up myself in s severely dysfunctional/abusive home, I related to not only the story but to how each sibling would have gotten abused differently and also have a different perspective on events.
This book did not fail in filling in the details of the story Ms. Calcaterra began in Etched In Sand.
118 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2017
This book is not for the faint of heart. This young girl suffered terrible abuse and her story as I listened to it on Audible made me lose sleep, I was so upset. There is a lot of repetition from her sister's book, Etched in Sand. I hope this will help me in my work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem.
May 17, 2017
Girl Unbroken written by Regina Calcaterra is about the main character, Rosie who moves constantly and is abused by her alcoholic mother. But when she settles in Idaho everything changes and Rosie realizes many important things about her life that are missing. Chasing after all that's lost Rosie tries to pick up all the pieces left behind but it's not easy with her mother chasing after her.
Girl Unbroken is realistic fiction and I totally agree that this book belongs in this category. Realistic fiction books are about the main characters facing real life problems and one of their main settings is usually school. In Girl Unbroken Rosie is abused by her mother who is an alcoholic, these are real life problems people today face. One of the main settings in this book is school because the main character Rosie loves the distraction of school. Rosie also grows up in a pretty real surrounding because she moves all the time. This is a very well written book that explains all the topics talked about and fits the genre it's categorized in perfectly. Rosie faces multiple conflicts that show her the real world; and that's what realistic fiction books are supposed to do. I recommend reading this book because of all the conflicts that show the real world, you will find yourself laughing and crying.
My overall opinion of this book is that it is a amazing book that is well written by Regina Calcaterra. I enjoyed this book very much because it tells a story about a brave girl fighting for what she loves. I would recommend this book to an older audience who enjoys sad books that have a lot of content and mature topics. So if you are looking for an amazing book to read, go pick up Girl Unbroken by Regina Calcaterra I promise you won’t regret it.
Profile Image for Pamela.
52 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2017
Loved this book! It was just as good as Etched in Sand
Profile Image for Denise G.
10 reviews
January 24, 2017
This book took my breath away and made me want to run and kiss all my kids. I had read Etched in Sand a while ago and this follow up was just as shocking and sad but well written and gripping. The writing style made it easy to read and although a disturbing account of horrific child abuse it was honest and true. I was rooting for Rosie to win since the first page! For Mrs. Maloney to come out of her childhood to the other side was amazing. Go Rosie!
5 reviews
May 23, 2017
I loved this book because it showed how some moms can treat their kids really bad and not care for them at all. It also showed how some foster homes treated the kids. I didn't like how the step dad touched the duaghter and the mom didn't believe her and thought she was trying to steal him from her when she was only a minor. I loved at the end of the book how her high school teacher saved her from her home and took her in and showed her real love
Profile Image for JennD.
95 reviews2 followers
May 29, 2017
I read this & Etched In Sand. I found this one harder to read...truly a testament to the love siblings have for each other, as well as persistence to make it.
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