A highly personal and deeply discomforting memoir of neglect and abuse.
Kuts grew up never knowing want; her parents provided for every need, lavishing her with toys and encouraging her interest in art. But not all was as it seemed; behind closed doors, Kuts’ mother disciplined her with harsh spankings that evolved into beatings. After her parents’ divorce, Kuts’ home life unraveled—the kitchen cupboards went barren, her clothes became threadbare and, most devastatingly, her mother lost interest in parenting. By the age of 12, when the memoir begins, the author is starving, routinely panhandling and stealing from neighbors to quiet her hunger. The home she shares with her brother and neglectful mother, who has taken up inappropriate relationships with teenage boys, is no refuge—parties rage at all hours and drug use is rampant. Kuts battles addiction, survives sexual assault and defends herself against torment, both psychological and physical, at the hands of her mother. The narrative follows the family as it moves from California to Oregon, where Kuts finds herself in an even worse predicament. The extent of the neglect, as well as the horrific depictions of starvation, is almost unfathomable and the description of her abuse is heartbreaking. The fact that Kuts grew from a nearly illiterate child to an accomplished wordsmith in just a dozen year attests to her resilience. She is still very close to her story; though she tells it from a distance of decades, her pain still feels fresh. The meandering book runs long (and remains unfinished—a sequel, Please Don’t Love Me, is to pick up where this book ends), and the real question—why Kuts’ mother turned into a monster—is never resolved. But the book succeeds as therapy for its author—and a reminder to its readers to value the simple things, like shelter, sustenance and familial love.