The Tony Award–winning playwright and bestselling author excavates the violent truths of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in a painful quest for healing.
Told from the perspective of the father who committed countless wrongs against his child, Ensler’s (In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection, 2013, etc.) latest is a chilling portrait from the broken mirror of his memories; only in the final pages will readers find the narrator’s candid acceptance of responsibility for this sadistic history. Fully amplifying her father’s warped perceptions, the author provides an exacting, revealing glimpse into the psychology of gaslighting from the view of a perpetrator. Ensler effectively unearths tragic betrayals of trust and the multiple terrors survived by her younger self. Her father’s twisted attention and attempted sabotages persisted as he notes the criticisms he planted to undercut his daughter’s growth and independence at every turn. Paternal contempt followed the author through high school and beyond, and she captures it all in a fevered account that traces periods of resistance, rebellion, self-destruction, creativity, and sobriety in the years she spent seeking to break from the restrictions cast by a father obsessed with violating her agency. Ensler’s father is certain to frustrate readers looking for a more concrete sense of justice, and the graphic catalogue of sexual abuses and physical violence will challenge most readers and trigger some. Still, this is a potent, necessary narrative of healing, and the author succeeds in her “attempt to endow my father with the will and the words to cross the border, and speak the language, of apology so that I can finally be free.” This imagined voice is as intimate as it is alarming, and Ensler also taps into a broader struggle, seeking to hold all perpetrators of abuse accountable for their actions.
Readers searching for full and consistent contrition may be uncomfortable, but those seeking a greater understanding of psychological manipulation will appreciate this powerful examination.