A memoir about a childhood of sexual abuse from debut author Herrera.
Growing up in El Salvador in a fatherless, poor family, young Perto hasn’t had things easy. From working in the fields for little to no money to seeing his mother pregnant again in spite of their economic situation, Perto would likely have faced a difficult life even without the episodes of sexual abuse that end up defining much of his childhood. Beginning with molestation from an acquaintance of his mother’s and escalating to rape and torment from several members of the community, Perto’s story is a horrifying glimpse into the life of an abused child. “When everything started I was seven years old—an innocent boy,” he says. “I was at the mercy of the adults in my life. Those adults, including my mother, were supposed to protect me from abuse, but they did not.” A main tormentor tends to visit Perto’s village on weekends, so the end of the week is dreaded. The explicit descriptions of abuse can be difficult to read: “It felt like a sharp handsaw was ripping the tissue of my rectum.” Attempts to placate the abuser are never successful—“Right away I did what he said because I was afraid of him”—and are met only by abuse from others who learn to view the victim as willing and defenseless. Cries for mercy fall on deaf ears, but how else can a young boy fight against full-grown men who feel no shame in committing unimaginable crimes? With a distinct Christian message, the story of Perto’s salvation from his troubled childhood is one involving lots of prayer and fantastical episodes in nature, including an eagle transforming into an angel ensconced in a rainbow of light. Though the conclusion may lose some readers, the book is notable for its believable downward spiral of abuse. Depictions of many characters prove less than illuminating, particularly as readers might hope for more information about Perto’s village and the people who populate it. Consequently, the story moves quickly, with just enough time to let the horror sink in.
A realistic and disturbing glimpse into an unenviable childhood.