In this chilling and disturbing re-creation, free-lance journalist Petersen (The Boston Globe, The Washington Post) recalls her childhood of sexual abuse. A writer, wife, and mother of two sons, Petersen lived an apparently successful upper-middle-class life, but frequent bouts of astonishing panic and rage aimed mostly at her children prompted her to seek therapy. After a year of sessions, childhood memories that Petersen could hardly credit as true began to surface. Though Petersen had grown up considering her family typically happy and healthy, she now began to re-experience intimate moments with her powerful, overbearing father, a top San Francisco surgeon—memories that convinced her that he had routinely abused both Petersen and her older sister, and that her suppressed memories of these incidents were what had led to her own inability to say no to her children and her frequent panic attacks on the kitchen floor. Petersen's descriptions of her parents' alcoholic binges, of her father's insistence that lying naked in bed with his daughters was normal, and of his relentless sexual abuse of Petersen from age three through her teen-age years are all the more appalling when portrayed through the eyes of a child—from her terror on perceiving her father's shadow hovering over her crib to her uncontrollable desire for his punishment after her first high- school date. Both her father and older sister are now dead, and Petersen clearly has written this book as a means of regaining her equilibrium. The passion and clarity with which she expresses the horror of parental abuse and its long-term effects offer the reader unique insights as well. A highly evocative, frightening tale, and all too convincing.
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