A detailed memoir blends prose and poetry to tell the story of a woman’s struggle to overcome the pain of loss and abuse.
Born in New York in 1942, Rapp describes herself as “the daughter of a strong mother / And a weak father.” She recounts a painful childhood, an insecure adolescence, and an uncomfortable adulthood all characterized by repeated incidents of rejection and cruelty at the hands of her parents and boyfriends, some casually dismissive, some outright abusive. Rebellious and passive by turns, Rapp was a dogged survivor, using her skills to forge a stable career as a rehabilitation counselor to help disabled people access their rights and benefits. Her search for love was less successful; she seemed to drift from one unsuccessful relationship to another against the backdrop of the societal changes of the 1960s and ’70s. Occasional poems accent the text with an emotional perspective on events, and the last section of the book is a collection of 24 poems titled “The End of Innocence.” Some, like “Central Park Summer,” employ almost the exact wording of the prose section; others offer personal comments on events such as the 9/11 attacks and the Sandy Hook school shooting. While Rapp’s frankness adds interest, her storytelling is frequently flat. For example, about her boyfriend Larry’s struggle with impotence, she writes: “He went to a doctor, who gave him a shot and his problem was cured.” The overall bleak tone might benefit from more flashes of humor, such as the sly paragraph that introduces the book: “I must have been a miracle baby because my parents slept in separate beds in my room and did not talk to each other except to argue, yet they made me.”
An intimate, somewhat gloomy, account of resilience.