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A True Story of Incest

by III de Milly

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-299-16510-8
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

One man’s horrific memoir of sexual abuse at the hands of his all-American father. The book opens in Tallahassee, Fla., just after the Cuban missile crisis. Nine-year-old Walter de Milly is awakened by his father, who leads him to their backyard bomb shelter, bolts the heavy lead door, and abuses him. Shortly thereafter, the child watches his father drive to his job at the bank, “his white shirt crisp against his Presbyterian back.” More than 30 years later, de Milly, who has actually gone into business with his dad, picks up the phone and hears an angry neighbor speak an ugly truth: “Your father molested my son.” At the neighbor’s insistence, the family finally confronts their father’s pedophilia and takes drastic action: Walter de Milly senior, the smiling, silver-haired pillar of the community undergoes surgical castration. This book recounts the author’s attempts to grapple not only with the lingering effects of the abuse he suffered from infancy through adolescence, but also with his own homosexuality and the complex blend of hatred, pity, contempt, and love he feels for his aging and increasingly infirm father. As his loving, impossibly naive mother looks on, seeing nothing, the father emerges here as a monster out of Norman Rockwell, a man who molests his son while reading aloud from the Bible, and leaves him helpful notes that read “Smile, and the world smiles with you!” Throughout the book, de Milly periodically assumes the point of view of his younger self, and re-creates the full force of a child’s hapless bewilderment during abuse. When the author finally dares to confront his father, the elder de Milly treats years of incest as a minor character flaw and says, simply, “I hoped you’d forgotten about it.” In an age where such tales have become so commonplace that they have lost some of their ability to shock, the raw power of de Milly’s writing ensures that readers will long remember his disturbing story. (Author tour)