This memoir depicts the devastating abuse of a child born to a prominent man and his pretentious wife. This family that includes two daughters lived on an exotic foreign island as well as an ordinary American city. The father had important careers in banking and law. Nothing was more important to the mother than the appearance of a family as normal. But what is normal when one daughter dashes in and out of the house daily while the other is imprisoned nightly as her father repeatedly rapes her? The sisters do not confide in anyone, and the entire family is without communication of any kind. "In our family we don't know words to soothe each other's hurts." Except that the patriarch finds comfort by taking his daughter's body, mind, and spirit.
Written in present tense, this first-person narrative begins with writing that illustrates emotions in a most extra-ordinary prose. "I sit rigid on a couch and stare at the plant by the window, wishing I were small enough, light enough, to curl up inside one of the cool green leaves and sleep." After experiencing parental rape from the age of four to eighteen, Sue tries to cope by creating alternative personalities; her authentic self had been lost in the isolation of secrets and shame. The mother blames Sue, and not the father for the deviant sexual acts of the father. Long after she escapes the abuse, Sue sustains the familiar in self-injury. She'd been love-starved; in adulthood she literally starves herself. Sue startles the reader with how emotionally annihilated a child is rendered by abuse.
Before the father loses his importance to old age, he vaguely excuses his egregious crimes by admitting that his mother had molested him. But Sue knows the truth: "That just because you are molested as a child does not mean you must grow up to be a molester." Once, just once, Sue hears from her mother "I'm so sorry." Sue tends to her parents while they are dying. As a reader, I struggle to understand how she can be there for them when they were not there for her.
Sue's authentic self slowly returns to her when she begins to heal under the patient guidance of a therapist, the steadfast love of her husband, and a new connection with her sister. The reader rejoices with Sue while she saves others even as she saves herself: Silverman teaches English composition and comforts women and children.
This book is the winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction, and there is no wondering why.
review by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story