The Blood on my Hands

A terrifying and telling memoir, but one that leave unanswered questions.

A harrowing memoir of domestic violence and mental illness in 1960s and ’70s Australia.

O’Leary writes that, beginning when she was a toddler, she suffered abuse at the hands of her late father. She recalls him tossing her into the air, playful and fatherly, and then suddenly dropping his arms to his sides and letting her hit the ground. When she was 4, she writes, she first glimpsed one of her father’s multiple personalities: while playing at her paternal grandmother’s house, she saw a “grotesque figure” in black boots, a grey wig, and pink lipstick. The person, who turned out to be her father in disguise, looked like her grandmother, she says, but threatened to cut her with a razor. The following year, O’Leary writes, she watched her father brutally and inexplicably murder three people. The domestic violence then escalated, according to O’Leary, who says that her father chloroformed her, buried her, tied her up, and sexually abused her; her favorite pets died horrible deaths, and her toys were lost or destroyed. Her father, she says, killed again, several times, with her as a witness; she endured this in order to protect her mother and three brothers, she says, whom her father regularly threatened to kill. The family lived in the Australian bush with no phone and little recourse, as the police refused to get involved in domestic cases. The sections of the book portraying the abuse are powerful. In them, O’Leary shows a child who couldn’t make sense of the strange figures she saw, the handkerchief that made her black out, or a trench where she was imprisoned. The confusion, uncertainty, and sickening foreboding ring true and offer vital insights into the experience of abuse, including the fact that victims had few options, especially in the 1960s. Other sections, however, including descriptions of events well before the author’s birth, are written like a novel, providing precise details and dialogue as well as the thoughts in the characters’ heads. Although the book is billed as an autobiography, O’Leary reveals little about her adult life, such as how her childhood experience affected her relationships with her own five children or how it feels to finally disclose the perpetrator of so many unresolved murders.

A terrifying and telling memoir, but one that leave unanswered questions.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5196-9587-1

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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