A tragic memoir of childhood sexual abuse and one man’s struggle to comprehend its lasting repercussions.
The book opens with the death of Mokotoff’s (Fallible, 2009) ex-wife, Tina. After recounting the horrific details of Tina’s demise as the result of years of alcoholism, Mokotoff chronicles the beginning of their relationship. He is the first to admit his initial naïveté about Tina’s penchant for alcohol and evasion of discussing her troubled past, yet as he continues to feign ignorance into the early years of their marriage, it’s hard to sympathize with such persistent denial. Mokotoff’s retrospective observations are also riddled with clunky dialogue and excessively detailed descriptions, such as grocery lists and physical appearances, which inhibit the reader’s ability to feel emotionally connected to the author’s plight. As he continues to recall missed warning signs, Mokotoff peppers the story with enlightening though sometimes awkwardly placed explanations of Tina’s family history. Through these details and Tina’s eventual confession, the reader learns how she and other siblings were all victims of varying degrees of sexual abuse at the hands of an alcoholic stepfather. Unfortunately, Mokotoff doesn’t realize how deeply these experiences affected his wife until it’s too late. Finding solace in drink, Tina manages to hide her alcohol consumption until she finally crosses the line into destructive, inescapable alcoholism. Multiple failed stints in rehab lead to the irrevocable breakdown of the Mokotoff’s marriage as Tina withdraws further into the dark world of addiction and Mokotoff is unable to come to terms with her illness. Sadly, it’s only after the death of Tina and her brother that her remaining family could begin a process of healing; it’s this process that Mokotoff successfully facilitates and relays through his account. In a final and touching part of the memoir, Mokotoff’s teenage daughter Emily reflects on her relationship with her mother. It is here that we finally see a genuine glimpse of Tina that was frustratingly absent in the rest of the book.
Mokotoff, despite a tendency to dwell on mundane and superficial details, constructs a devastating memoir that is both an act of closure and a cautionary tale.