A spare, unadorned memoir about growing up with an abusive father and neglectful mother.
Barker, a California social worker and grief counselor, references the name of Job at the beginning of a few chapters in this staggeringly bleak account of her life. The author, who survives horrific abuse and neglect at the hands of both her mother and father (and later, by a series of men), could have justifiably wrapped her entire biography in biblical terms. Her memoir immediately starts on a dark note, with the sudden death of her father when she was just 8 years old. She relates this seminal event in her life emotionally, seemingly heedless to narrative convention (“No comforting story: Poor Daddy got very sick kids, and then he died”). The result is a heartbreaking confessional that’s immediate and real; at times, it feels as if the author is dredging up her past for a therapist, rather than for readers. The author starkly outlines how her self-absorbed mother sought to find a new husband after barely acknowledging the family’s grief and loss. This sent the young author into a tailspin that would have disastrous consequences for her far into adulthood: “[My mother] smiled at us and made us food and pretended that we were real, but I don't think we were real to her. I think we were like dolls or like the oven.” Fortunately, as an adult, the author managed to carve out a life for herself. However, it was profoundly marred by the traumas of her past, which caused the destruction of one promising relationship after another. Later revelations about her late father are almost too much to bear, but they hold the key to her recovery. Overall, despite her life’s plagues and pestilence, Barker never loses her pluck, and as a result, readers won’t stop rooting for her.
An exceedingly dark, but ultimately uplifting, journey of self-discovery.