Terrorism expert Stern (Law/Harvard Univ.; Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, 2003, etc.) writes about her own experience as a target of terror.
When the author was 15, she and her 14-year-old sister were raped, and the rapist was never caught. Forty years later, the case was reopened and the perpetrator, thought to have raped as many as 44 girls between the ages of nine and 19, was identified. Though he had died several years earlier, Stern felt the need to investigate him. Through her explorations, she found more than just a sense of who he was. She discovered explanations for her ability to maintain calm in moments of extreme danger, her tendency to experience enormous anxiety in normally nonthreatening situations and why she may have chosen her specific career path. Stern is just as revealing about deeply held family secrets, including revelations about her mother’s early death, her father’s childhood as a Holocaust survivor and the philandering of, and Stern’s potential molestation by, her grandfather. Most moving is the author’s contemplation of denial itself, and its effect of re-victimizing the victim. Though the narrative continually threatens to spiral into stream-of-consciousness ramblings, Stern always manages to hold it together, thus lending a sense of the floating dissociation she often feels while still holding the narrative together as a cohesive whole. She successfully unearths difficult emotional terrain without sinking into utter subjectivity and maintains an orderly progression without becoming clinical.
A disturbing, captivating memoir.