The road out of an intolerant small town leads straight to a faith-based reform school in journalist Scheeres’s scarifying memoir.
When she was 16, her fundamentalist Christian parents moved the author and her two adopted, African-American brothers to a Midwest farming community that they immediately discovered was a little patch of racist attitudes. Seventeen-year-old Jerome stole the family car and made his escape, but not for long. After his return, he repeatedly raped Scheeres, noting that he wasn’t really her brother. Jerome was himself abused by their parents: Mother had enthusiasm only for God’s works, not for children; Dad was a sadist who once broke the arm of son David with a two-by-four. When David tried to commit suicide, Mother’s response was, “Why can’t I just have one day of peace?” Pretty soon Scheeres was finding that a splash of Southern Comfort in the morning went a long way toward making bearable a day that began with the house-wide intercom system blaring Christian radio and typically ended with some motherly snideness (on a good day) or a fatherly beating (on a bad day). The only bright spot was the affection between the author and David, her best friend and angel. It helped the two endure after they were shipped off to reform school in the Dominican Republic. Run by members of their parents’ faith, Escuela Caribe was a place of petty cruelty, but at least the tribulations of being a new kid in a close-knit school was better than the torments of life at home. Forget redemption: Think survival, and marvel at how Scheeres kept sadness and fear at bay while battling hormones and small-mindedness so small it’s hard for the reader to detect anything in her mother or father that might be considered a mind at all.
A bristly summoning of unpretty events, conveyed with remarkable placidity.