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A privileged childhood concealed a deeply-buried secret that Ellie didn’t discover until she was 69 years old. A lifetime of spiritual seeking offered no freedom from her painful history. Unexpected Legacy explores her childhood and follows Ellie’s path through the trauma of recovered memories, which ultimately lead her to forgiveness and peace.


Nina has always felt uncomfortable in her brown skin, and different from her white mother and the white world of Vermont where she grew up. Now, at twenty-one, she is determined to find her father, a Mayan her mother admits to having known only briefly. Nina believes she can find him, and when she does, she will finally know who she is and where she really belongs.

Kirkus Reviews:


"A memoir [Unexpected Legacy] …toggles between mid-20th-century New York City and 21st-century California…the audience will ache for this child. A well-written account of a survivor’s turbulent odyssey that will inspire many readers. Wood is a very good writer."    READ COMPLETE REVIEW AND SYNOPSIS >>


"Ellie Wood’s writing is like silk— graceful, luminous, and elegant. The contrast with the content of her story is stunning. With psychological astuteness and the insights of a lifelong seeker of the truth, she courageously confronts both the internal and external realities that must be faced to become more whole."

—Adrienne Amundsen, Psychologist, author of Cassandras Falling


"Ellie’s compelling story is both profoundly individual and, in the sense of Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey,’” inspiringly universal. Similarly, Ellie’s way of supporting others in finding their own path to healing and wholeness is both unique and deeply admirable."

 —Carol Cole, co-founder Sophia Project


About the Author


Ellie Wood

As a child, I imagined that everyone had a blueprint that showed them how to live, an orderly pattern to follow. By the time I was in my early 20’s it seemed that my blueprint must have been drawn with invisible ink because how to live my life wasn’t the least bit clear.

I was 29 when a teacher in the Gurdjieff Work gave me my first meditation instruction. My husband and I with our two young children had moved to California from the East Coast the year before. I had no trouble adapting to California living. Within a few months, knowing nothing of pot, I quickly discovered I liked it quite a bit. So when I sat down for my first attempt at meditation I smoked a joint first. From that point on meditation became and has continued to be the foundation of my life. Needless to say, my pot smoking ended abruptly. For the next 25 years the Gurdjieff Work became the axis of my life as I raised my children and pursued art in many of its forms, sharing it with children in hospitals and schools.


It is interesting to me that my three most significant life-changing events came as a result of great pain. I was 42 when my teacher in the Gurdjieff Work died. I had had migraines before that, but after his death my head pain reached new levels. After years of failed attempts to stop my migraines, I found a healer, an American who had trained in the Philippines. He helped me, and I felt so inspired by that work that I apprenticed with him for five years before opening my own practice. I loved working as a healer. It felt like a way to serve that I had been looking for my whole life.

But after 15 years a case of shingles in my eye forced me to quit working, for a few weeks, and then a few more weeks, until I had to stop altogether. Every time I put my hands on someone a pain would shoot up into my eye. Losing this work was devastating, but I had no choice. By then I had left both the Gurdjieff Work and my 30 year marriage.

The year I turn 68 I joined the Diamond Approach, where I have stayed ever since. It is a community devoted to spiritual development, and where I first learned about the importance of the impact of our early childhood experiences on our later development. Within a year after I joined this community I had my first indication of the childhood abuse that upended my life.

Because writing along with art has always been an important part of my daily life when the earthquake of recovered memories shattered the ground beneath me, I wrote my way through it, to process it, to understand it, and to bring it into the light. With so much trauma in our culture it felt important to speak up and share my experience.

"Journeying with Ellie through old familiar territory helped me recognize and reclaim forgotten parts of myself. She expertly weaves past and present into a fascinating, inspiring tale of redemption that kept me totally engrossed throughout.

  —Barbara Jacobsen, Artist, Co-Director of the Sonoma Collage Studio

other work

"Ellie Wood is a fierce and brave storyteller, weaving for us, with lyrical precision, the long path one must walk to embrace her truth." 

  —Anne Woods, Writer


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" Every word counts in this exquisitely written memoir. Lyrical and unforgettable, it brings new meaning to abuse, and ultimately forgiveness.

  — Mary Brent Cantarutti, Founder of the Southern Sampler Artists Colony


Rosie and Belle

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