THE CEMETERY OF MY MIND by William Bates

THE CEMETERY OF MY MIND

Memories and More
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bates makes his authorial debut with a long, triumphant memoir of his path toward healing after abuse.

This book opens in a small town in southern Ontario called Niagara-on-the-Lake, where young Bates is being beaten by a hairbrush in the hands of his drunken mother. Readers will quickly understand the memoir’s ominous title: “I shoved as much of it as I could—my faults, my denials, my justifications, and my unworthy feelings—into the cemetery of my mind until they festered there and eventually erupted.” At first, it seems that the abuse Bates suffered from his mother will take center stage in the memoir, though readers will soon see that the author’s mother was only one of many perpetrators in his life. Before the age of the 6, Bates was forced into two sexual encounters. Eventually, he was subjected to a long, abusive relationship with a member of the clergy. In fact, specific stories of his mother’s abuse appear infrequently—though her alcoholism is regularly alluded to—and it is her absence from the author’s life that most poignantly explains the damage done. The majority of stories here get their own section, as with the two-paragraph section titled “ ‘Niagara,’ the Movie,” in which the author goes to the theater and may or may not see two celebrities there—a chapter, among others, that could be cut from the book. Similarly, in the middle of the narrative, the three sections written by an old family friend feel out of place. Ultimately, however, all the stories contribute to the panorama of a full life that includes everything from boys on bicycles in summer to the ups and downs of marriage, from a boyhood replete with abuse to an adulthood spent helping others confront and overcome it.

Includes a few too many episodes, but this worthwhile memoir movingly portrays one man’s courageous life.  

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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