Sarah Payne Stuart grew up in a family of aristocratic lineage whose fortune had long ago been lost. (Among the many family documents cited is a Boston Globe article in which Lowell's bankrupt grandfather is quoted in his will as having left his children their good breeding and Boston heritage.) Stuart's upbringing carried with it a heady sense of privilege and entitlement, but without the money to back it up. This dichotomy - of being both anointed and strapped, of needing to keep up a brave front at all costs, even when members of successive generations of the family (including the author's brother and famous cousin) find themselves locked up in mental wards - forms the heart of this story. An irreverent and clear-sighted meditation on the claustrophobic yet seductive bonds of family, as well as an intimate portrait of a famous man, My First Cousin Once Removed is a wry and haunting story of survival in the midst of instability and dynastic decline.