I found this a fascinating, revealing and affirming read. I normally avoid books written in the continuous present, but there are occasions when that ‘oral’ way of telling a story is absolutely appropriate; and this is one of them.
Kate’s history of eating disorder, self-loathing and self-harm clearly indicates how deeply damaged she is. She suffered systematic abuse throughout her childhood and early adolescence. She had an obsessive-compulsive, violent, cruel mother and a sexually abusive father, and it was drummed into her that everything bad that ever happened to her at home happened because she was a disobedient, selfish, wicked, corrupt daughter. Only when she cuts too deep at the age of seventeen does she find herself in a place where slowly, gradually, she can begin to heal and find again the child she was before her grandmother died and her father’s abuse began – when she was nine years old…
This book has particular personal resonance for me. I am still in almost daily communication with a former pupil (now in her late forties) with whom I had weekly, one-hour, after-school sessions from when she was 13 to when she left school at 16. She was victimised by bullies like Carly and never dared admit it at the time. She was/is highly intelligent and – like Kate and Harmony and me – loved literature. Like Kate too, she had been conditioned by her highly abusive family into believing that she was the daughter from hell for attempting to resist their systematic abuse. The eating disorder, the self-harm, the secrecy, the self-loathing were exactly as Harmony Kent’s character portrays them. Many of the things Kate says about herself and how she feels eerily echoed the attitudes and feelings that were expressed to me by that desperately unhappy girl all those years ago. Like Kate, she got away from them as soon as she was able.
What Harmony Kent is revealing here is the tip of an iceberg. How many girls are growing up right now within sexually and psychologically abusive families, hiding the systematic abuse of children behind their closed doors? How many of those abusive parents were themselves abused as children? And how many girls – and, to a lesser extent, boys – never dare to tell, and are doomed to suffer the destructive repercussions throughout their adult lives?
This is a well-written book, but it’s the author’s bravery in writing it that I am applauding. Many abuse victims will absolutely identify with it, if they are lucky enough ever to come across it. Reading it will help those fortunate enough to have had a caring, supportive, loving childhood to better understand the challenges faced by the considerable numbers of children who didn’t. I would like to see it sensitively taught in colleges and at the senior end of schools.
Please read it. It should be read by as many people as possible: for only then can it play its rightful part in helping to make this deeply damaged world a better place.