WHEN THE PIANO STOPS by Catherine McCall


A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse
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McCall’s recollections of sexual abuse at the hands of her deeply damaged father add little literary merit to the already-overflowing shelf of survivor memoirs.

Not that her experiences weren’t chilling. Raised by a well-to-do family in Brooklyn, the author tells of suffering through years of sadistic abuse from her egomaniacal and occasionally psychotic father, while her increasingly alcohol-dependent mother mainly turned a blind eye. She describes the visits her father paid to her bedroom, all the while ardently whispering in her ear, “Nothing’s happening, Catherine. Nothing’s happening. And if you think anything is happening then you’re crazy.” This sickening induction into sexual activity turned McCall away from the world of the flesh toward the spiritual; she prayed to the saints to save her and her fragile younger brother and sister. Yet her father’s injunctions worked, for according to the author and her therapist all these horrific memories remained buried for years. McCall escaped her father’s physical advances when she left for college, and the remainder of the memoir chronicles her thwarted early attempts to understand why she couldn’t enjoy sex with her loving husband, why she feared visits from some of their male friends and why she was subject to anxiety and panic attacks. It was only when she began to recover images of her father raping her that forgiveness could tentatively emerge, she declares. In the book’s introduction, the author’s ailing, demented mother pleads with her to “write a book someday and tell them all about it…tell them in a way that will make some good of it. Please.”

McCall bears witness in excruciating detail to the horrors that befell her, but readers may wish for more than just a chronicle of her experiences.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-58005-267-2
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2009


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