Disquieting memoir about the 15-year relationship between a child and a predatory sexagenarian.
Fragoso’s New Jersey childhood consisted of sharing a bed in a slummy, cramped one-bedroom apartment with her mentally ill mother and hard-drinking, Army-veteran father, who worked as a jeweler. She was just seven when she met 51-year-old pedophile Peter Curran at a public pool in 1985 and subsequently invited to his home. Hopelessly unaware of the inappropriateness of the arrangement, her naive mother joined her daughter on a series of visits to Curran’s expansive house—an interactive, wide-eyed wonderland alive with his two young sons and a vast array of kid-friendly pets. A perfect escape from her family life, Fragoso’s chaperoned (then solo) visits became more frequent as Curran drew closer and more physically daring. At first, he’d discreetly hug and kiss her in the basement, then coerced her into clumsy, manipulative sexual advances, labeling his actions as “something that people in love, like we are, do together.” Eventually, Fragoso’s perceptive father forbade her from visiting Curran, who continued to take in a random series of female foster children. But the carefree whimsy of the author’s childhood had already fallen victim to Curran’s premeditated manipulation. After reuniting with him two years later (as her mother’s sanity deteriorated), Fragoso became withdrawn, increasingly codependent and cooperative during their sex games. In wincingly frank, graphic scenes, the author intricately details her harrowing evolution from a doe-eyed innocent girl to a broken, emotionally scarred victim who, at 22, was further crushed after receiving Curran’s 10 handwritten suicide notes along with the key to his car. Culled from the four diaries she kept during the ordeal, Fragoso writes with searing honesty about her serpentine entanglement and of Curran’s calculated, menacing exploitation of her. Intensive psychotherapy and new motherhood provide a hopeful coda to her unspeakable experience.
A gripping, tragic and unforgettable chronicle of lost innocence and abuse.