A Memoir
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Harrowing portrait of a young girl’s brutal abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

After an evaluation by social services determining neglect, Elliott (a pseudonym) and her brother were taken away from their heavy-drinking father and unfaithful mother to be placed in foster care. Limited to seeing her children on supervised visits, their mother continued an affair with Richard, a moody, shifty teenager who swiftly assumed the role of stepfather; he was 18 when the author was returned to her parent’s custody. Elliott’s beloved brother lucked out and was left to be adopted by a respectable family; her mother bragged about manipulating authorities with a bribe stipulating that the couple “only wanted the girl” back. Stepfather Richard, prone to angry rages, hated Elliott on sight and insisted she and the rest of the family (he and her mother eventually had four sons) keep the house spotless, or corporal punishment would follow. The abuse quickly ballooned to catastrophic proportions. Richard spat in her food, viciously beat her, tried to drown her, suffocated her and threatened her with kitchen knives. The author’s mother, clearly aware of the situation, never objected, fearing for her own personal safety. Attempts to run away at age six were met with increased tyranny, psychological torture and humiliation that continued well into Elliott’s adolescence, a physical state that only seemed to amplify her stepfather’s relentless sexual exploitation. Readers will breathlessly whip through Elliott’s explicit, page-turning chronicle, rooting for her to reach some sort of asylum. But even as a young adult with a boyfriend and children of her own, she would see many more years of maltreatment, including the violent backlash from other members of the family after she leaked her story to police. Though Elliott’s stepfather was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison, questions remain as to how someone carries on with life after such an atrocity has left the scars of abuse deeply embedded in both mind and body.

Shockingly graphic, disturbingly powerful.

Pub Date: July 24th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-156131-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2008


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