NC Literary Hall of Fame



The Rope of Life: A Memoir by Mirinda Kossoff

Lystra Books
$16.96, paperback / $6.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-1-7336816-7-4
July, 2020
Nonfictiton: Memoir
Available from your local bookstore or

“Spare, elegant writing traces a daughter’s search for the truth about her father’s suicide and a psychological journey back to a WWII death camp ... a revelatory and compelling memoir.”
—Lee Smith, author of Blue Marlin

“Mirinda Kossoff’s father was a shape-shifter, a Jewishturned-Southern Baptist dentist-pilot-farmer who never managed to escape the stigma of otherness or the pain of unbelonging. In this memoir, full of heart and heartbreak, Kossoff reflects on her father’s legacy and her own journey of self-invention and reinvention. A frank, moving, timely story.”
—Kim Church, author of Byrd

The Rope of Life is a deep account of an issue we all struggle with: Identity. Born to a Baptist mother and a man who converted from Judaism, Kossoff watched her father take on roles that served him and roles that he fought against. As he acted out in anger at times, she began to wonder if he had left an essential part of himself behind somewhere. Kossoff writes deftly about how one man’s severed identity affected another generation. Moving and beautiful, The Rope of Life reaches a poignant conclusion. You won’t regret reading this one.”
—Nancy Peacock, author of The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

Set in the small border town of Danville—“Last Capital of the Confederacy”—Virginia, in the racially divided South of the ‘50s and ‘60s, The Rope of Life: A Memoir is about growing up trying to fit in and instead straddling the divide between the Southern Baptist side of the author's family and the cultured New York Jewish side. Kossoff, who looked too much like her beloved Jewish grandfather for her Gentile mother’s taste, struggled to find her place in the family. Her father—a WWII Army Air Corps veteran, New York Jew, and Christian convert—struggled to find his place in Danville. The Rope of Life follows the arc of her father’s rise to respectability and material success and decline into pain and suicide, and the author's struggles to connect with him, understand his death, and come to terms with it, unearthing family and town secrets along the way.

Mirinda Kossoff was born in Greensboro and grew up not that far away in small-town Danville, Virginia, which she couldn't wait to escape. She managed to get as far away as Japan for work, after graduating from The College of William & Mary. Later, she lived in England for nine months. She has been a chameleon in her work life—from medical social worker, assistant managing editor at a large newspaper, communications director in academia and nonprofits, freelancer, to metal smith and jewelry designer and member artist in a fine art gallery.

Her essays and creative writing have been passions she pursued alongside her day jobs. She penned a weekly column for a local paper, was an essayist/commentator on regional public radio, and taught essay writing at Duke University in a continuing education program now called OLLI. She has been published in newspapers and national magazines.

But there was a memoir in her for nearly two decades, and finally she gave breath and life to it. For years, Mirinda avoided her life’s purpose—to tell her story as truthfully and honestly as she could. Now she has done that—and she will keep writing from her heart and her experience.

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